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+ Where is Cassini now?

SATURN MOON SIZE COMPARISON

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SATURN MOON SIZE COMPARISON
*

Image Credit: NASA/JPL
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PURPLE HAZE

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PURPLE HAZE
* Encircled in purple stratospheric haze, Titan appears as a softly glowing sphere in this colorized image taken one day after Cassini's first flyby of that moon. This image shows two thin haze layers. The outer haze layer is detached and appears to float high in the atmosphere. Because of its thinness, the high haze layer is best seen at the moon's limb.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
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VIMS COLOR IMAGE

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* Piercing the ubiquitous layer of smog enshrouding Titan, these images from the Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer reveals an exotic surface covered with a variety of materials in the southern hemisphere. Visible is a circular feature that may be a crater in the north.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
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ATMOSPHERE COMPARISON

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ATMOSPHERE COMPARISON
* This graphic illustrates the differences in Titan's and Earth's atmospheres. Titan's atmosphere extends 10 times further into space than Earth's.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL
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MODEL OF TITAN'S ATMOSPHERE

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MODEL OF TITAN'S ATMOSPHERE
* Titan presents an environment that appears to be unique in the solar system, with a thick, hazy atmosphere containing organic (or carbon-based) compounds, an organic ocean or lakes, and a rich soil filled with frozen molecules similar to what scientists believe led to the origin of life on Earth. The major differences between Titan and Earth are Titan's absence very low temperatures and an absence of liquid water. Scientists believe that the surface temperatures on Titan are cold enough to preclude any biological activity whatsoever at Titan.

As on Earth, the dominant atmospheric constituent in Titan's atmosphere is nitrogen. Methane represents about six percent of the atmosphere. Titan's surface pressure is 1.6 times that on Earth, despite Titan's smaller size. The surface temperature was found by Voyager to be 95 degrees Kelvin (minus 289 degrees Fahrenheit).

The opacity of Titan's atmosphere is caused by naturally produced photochemical smog. Voyager's infrared spectrometer detected many minor constituents produced primarily by photochemistry of methane, which produces hydrocarbons such as ethane, acetylene and propane. With Titan's smoggy sky and distance from the Sun, a person standing on Titan's surface in the daytime would experience a level of daylight equivalent to about 1/1,000th the daylight at Earth's surface.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL
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ZOOMING IN ON TITAN

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ZOOMING IN ON TITAN
* This map of Titan's surface, generated from images taken during Cassini's approach to Saturn, illustrates the imaging coverage planned during Cassini's first very close Titan flyby on Oct. 26, 2004.

Colored lines enclose regions that will be covered at different imaging scales as Cassini approaches Titan. Based on previous observations, it is anticipated that the size of the smallest visible surface features will be approximately five times larger than the image scale. Thus, the smallest visible features within the region bounded by the red curve should be about 1 to 1.2 kilometers (0.6 to 0.9 mile) across. The yellow X marks the predicted landing site for the Huygens probe, the target of the camera's highest-resolution mosaic. Images of this site taken near closest approach may have higher resolution than indicated here. Features a few hundred meters or yards across may be discernible, depending on the effect that relative motion between the spacecraft and Titan has on the quality of the images.

The images used to create the map were acquired between April and June 2004 using a narrow, 938-nanometer filter that sees through Titan's atmospheric haze to the surface. These images have been processed to enhance surface details. Scales range from 88 to 35 kilometers (55 to 22 miles) per pixel. It's currently winter in Titan's northern hemisphere, so high northern latitudes are not illuminated, resulting in the map's upper limit at roughly 45 degrees north latitude. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and the Cassini imaging team home page, http://ciclops.org .

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
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HUYGENS GOING IN

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HUYGENS GOING IN
* This artist's conception shows Titan's surface with Saturn appearing dimly in the background through Titan's thick atmosphere of mostly nitrogen and methane. The Cassini spacecraft flies overhead with its high-gain antenna pointed at the Huygens probe as it nears the surface.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL
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