Titan, the largest moon orbiting Saturn, has revealed a clear view of the salt-laden flats and Earth-like lakes captured by the NASA Cassini spacecraft.
“We know lakes here change with the seasons, and Cassini’s long mission at Saturn gives us the opportunity to watch the seasons change at Titan, too. Now that the sun is shining in the north and we have these wonderful views, we can begin to compare the different data sets and tease out what Titan’s lakes are doing near the north pole,” Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker said in statement.
Saturn has been closely monitored by Cassini since 2004. The spacecraft had already completed one-third of Saturn’s planet year which spans 30 years compared to Earth.
The exposed view in summer allowed Cassini to use its advanced infrared mapping spectrometer and camera to take images of the Titan moon’s expanse containing liquid ethane and methane back to earth for study. “Titan’s northern lakes region is one of the most Earth-like and intriguing in the solar system,” Spilker said.
Among the views taken were the bodies of water found on Titan. The Kraken Mare, the moon’s biggest sea, is as large as the Caspian Sea and the Lake Superior together. The second largest is Ligeia Mare, which lies to the left, is around 500 km across. Punga Mare on the other hand is 380 km across and is found at the northern hemisphere.
Aside from this, Cassini also found an orange-colored landscape surrounding these lakes. The scientists believe that these may be organic-made salt-flats similar to Earth’s. It is believed that these mineral deposits developed while the bodies of water evaporated with the higher temperature brought by the summer.
The researchers are hopeful that the clear images which show for the first time bright parts of the moon in the northern side will offer some explanation on how the lakes were formed in the upper hemisphere of Titan.