Cassini peers through Titan’s clouds

TitanIn its first close flyby of Saturn’s largest moon, the unmanned Cassini probe performs the first-ever radar reconaissance of Titan’s surface. Shrouded by a thick, organically-rich atmosphere, Titan’s surface has never been seen until now. Though scientists say that Cassini’s close pass only allows them to map 1% of the surface, the preliminary results prove to be fascinating. Titan seems, at first glance, to have a relatively smooth surface, perhaps indicating oceans, or ongoing glacial or volcanic resurfacing; a member of the radar imaging team says that readings have also indicated that the surface of Titan is “covered in organics.” Cassini will get further chances to aim its radar beams at Titan, and in December it will release the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe, which will approach Titan, ultimately entering the moon’s dense atmosphere in January to take direct readings from the surface, whether it’s solid or liquid.

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