Categories: Space

Natural Color View of Saturn and Titan

Cassini Spacecraft Conducts Its 100th Flyby of the Saturn Moon Titan

Mosaic of images captured by the Cassini spacecraft shows a natural color view of Saturn and Titan. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Created by combining six images from the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera, this mosaic shows a natural color view of Saturn and Titan.

A giant of a moon appears before a giant of a planet undergoing seasonal changes in this natural color view of Titan and Saturn from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, measures 3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers, across and is larger than the planet Mercury. Cassini scientists have been watching the moon’s south pole since a vortex appeared in its atmosphere in 2012. See PIA14919 and PIA14920 (images below) to learn more about this mass of swirling gas around the pole in the atmosphere of the moon.

PIA14919: Titan’s Colorful South Polar Vortex. This true-color image captured by NASA’S Cassini spacecraft before a distant flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan on June 27, 2012, shows a south polar vortex, or a mass of swirling gas around the pole in the atmosphere of the moon. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

As the seasons have changed in the Saturnian system, and spring has come to the north and autumn to the south, the azure blue in the northern Saturnian hemisphere that greeted Cassini upon its arrival in 2004 is now fading. The southern hemisphere, in its approach to winter, is taking on a bluish hue. This change is likely due to the reduced intensity of ultraviolet light and the haze it produces in the hemisphere approaching winter, and the increasing intensity of ultraviolet light and haze production in the hemisphere approaching summer. (The presence of the ring shadow in the winter hemisphere enhances this effect.)

The reduction of haze and the consequent clearing of the atmosphere makes for a bluish hue: the increased opportunity for direct scattering of sunlight by the molecules in the air makes the sky blue, as on Earth. The presence of methane, which generally absorbs in the red part of the spectrum, in a now clearer atmosphere also enhances the blue.

PIA14920: Titan’s South Polar Vortex in Motion. This movie captured by NASA’S Cassini spacecraft shows a south polar vortex, or shows a south polar vortex, or a swirling mass of gas around the pole in the atmosphere, at Saturn’s moon Titan. The swirling mass appears to execute one full rotation in about nine hours — much faster than the moon’s 16-day rotation period. The images were taken before and after a distant flyby of Titan on June 27, 2012. The south pole of Titan (3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers, across) is near the center of the view. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from just above the ring plane.

This mosaic combines six images — two each of red, green, and blue spectral filters — to create this natural color view. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on May 6, 2012, at a distance of approximately 483,000 miles (778,000 kilometers) from Titan. The image scale is 29 miles (46 kilometers) per pixel on Titan.

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 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 operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

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