Archive for the 'Titan' Category
Best compilation of Titan colorized descent images I have seen yet from NASA. I do suspect the actual color of Titan - on the ground - would look less metallic than these do. All the color seen here is based upon educated guesses and applied over the black and white images returned by Huygens. There were no real color images taken by Huygens during descent.
I plan to do a long post on some amazing renders made for an Italian magazine based upon actual imagery and data… but I am so busy these days. It will go up eventually.
Map-makers of the world rejoice! For the first time since the days of Columbus, you now have the opportunity to map out the details of undiscovered shores! Tim Minton has a passion for map-making, but his pursuits usually involve Earthly destinations – how could he resist the new Lakes and Seas of another world? Check out his flickr page for other maps and in particular his Titan set.
Also in the department of older images never posted here is this revision of the Titan “shoreline” image returned by the Huygens probe which landed on the moon in January 2005. It is referred to as a shoreline image largely because of its appearance and the fact that scientists actually anticipated seeing either lakes or oceans from the Huygens landing. Despite the fact that this image is not an actual shoreline where land meets liquid, you can easily see multiple drainage channels cutting through the land masses leading up to the “edge”. Easily the most “Earthlike” image of another planet/moon ever taken in my opinion.
We did later find that Titan does host a large amount of hydro-carbon lakes in it’s northern polar regions (and a smaller amount in the south) but unfortunately for us, we were not aware of that fact and Huygens did not land in that region.
In addition to the above work René Pascal also generated many fantastic views of what the surface of Titan may have actually looked to Huygens during its descent based upon the data sent back. They appeared in Le Figaro magazine and I am trying to get my hands on a copy before posting more on those images. They are really gorgeous.
Cassini takes a pass at Titan on February 22 (already having made a pass this year on January 5th).
Soon after Titan, Cassini performs a truly unexpected maneuver and flies directly through the plumes of Enceladus on March 12th. This is a somewhat risky task for the probe as the particles it will surely encounter may pose some kind of impact threat to the spacecraft. Mission planners expect the risk to be low as they intend to turn the spacecraft around and let the less delicate side of Cassini bear the brunt of the material and photograph the geysers as it moves away from Enceladus. It should make for some of the most exciting planetary science planned for this year.
Cassini has another go at Titan on March 25.
Yup – you guessed it. Cassini at Titan again on May 12th.
The Phoenix lander arrives at Mars on May 25th and (hopefully) makes good on the failure of the Mars Polar Lander. It will be the first time a probe will attempt a landing on the Martian pole and will conduct a series of experiments looking for the existence of water ice.
You can never have too much of a good thing. Cassini at Titan again on May 28th as well as July 31.
Chandrayaan becomes India’s first planetary probe as it leaves for the moon in Early July (was April).
The extended Cassini mission has made Enceladus a prime target of investigation and the new encounters begin on Aug 11th and comes within 54km of the surface.
Rosetta still on its way for an encounter with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014, will make a close pass at an asteroid named 2867 Steins on Sept 5th at a distance of only 1700 km. Steins is a small asteroid measuring only a few kilometers in size and the craft will be traveling at a relatively slow speed which should allow for some good resolution images to be acquired during the encounter.
Messenger (having just completed the first encounter in 33 years this past week) has another go at Mercury on Oct 6th and flies past more uncharted territory on its way to eventual orbit insertion in 2011.
Two more close flybys of the Saturnian moon Enceladus on Oct 9 and Oct 31. The first at hair-raising distance of 25km and the second around a more reasonable 200km.
In an effort to recognize the International Lunar Decade (and intended manned Lunar missions within 15 years), the United States returns to the moon with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov 3rd. It is expected to begin its scientific goals only 3 days after launch and is expected to look for possible deposits of water ice in permanently shadowed craters near the Lunar poles.
And finally more Titan flybys on Nov 3, Nov 19, Dec 5 and Dec 21.
All this is in addition to the ongoing work of Opportunity and Spirit on the surface of Mars. Mars Express and Mars Reconnaissance in orbit around Mars. Cassini’s non-targeted continuing tour of other icy Saturnian moons. And who knows, maybe we will see more than 2 or 3 reports coming from the ever quiet Venus Express mission currently at Venus.
Sadly, some very exciting missions will be quietly traveling en route to their targets and are not expected to be heard from in 08 like the Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt, New Horizons mission to Pluto/Charon, the newly re-targeted Deep Impact mission (now known as Epoxi) as well as Stardust now on its way to a follow-up visit to Tempel 1 the comet that was smacked by Deep Impact in 2005.
If I am going to keep making these things… I’d be a fool to not include a set for the Apple iPhone. Coincidentally, when you purchase your iPhone and do not yet have a phone service, the phone displays a full-disc image of the Earth pretty much displayed exactly as these do when uploaded to your iPhone. So in the spirit of continuity, you can now opt instead to have Mercury, Venus, Earth, The Moon (Luna), Mars, Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Saturn, Enceladus, Titan, Iapetus, Hyperion, Uranus, Miranda, Neptune or Triton grace your screen instead of the default Earth.
The easiest way to install wallpapers to your iPhone is to make a special set in iPhoto and simply drag all the files to that folder. Then in iTunes have your iPhone sync that folder to your photos collection. After that it is as simple as opening the “Photos” area of your iPhone. Go to your new folder of images and open whichever image you want. Then tap on the image just once and assign it as a wallpaper using the “Use as Wallpaper” button in the lower left corner of the screen.
If you have a PC I have no idea in hell how the hell you get images into your iPhone. I would buy a Mac… you have an iPhone and use iTunes… you are half-way there.
For a version of these with no graphics see this link.
NASA released an unusually large amount of color images to the Cassini website recently. Most of what is shown here on this site are actually images put together by freelance imagers who access the raw files and do some stitching together of filtered images. Color images coming straight off the Cassini website are a rare event, so when about 8 appeared in the gallery a few days ago… it was an unexpected gift.
A family portrait of the Saturn System. Moons visible in this image (you need to click the preview) are Dione at far left, Enceladus near the left side ring edge, Mimas a speck on ring shadows on the western limb, Rhea against the northern hemisphere, Tethys near the right ring edge, and Titan near lower right.
Probably there are images like this of Titan every time Cassini makes another pass. This week marks the 36th time since the start of the mission the spacecraft has visited the large Saturnian moon. So these images are probably similar to the other 35 times Cassini snapped some RGB filtered images, but we are hoping to score a more traditional “portrait” of Titan one day that isn’t another crescent image.
The first image is similar to one that we currently use as the “portrait” wallpaper for Titan (seen here). That one is starting to look a bit fake in the purple hazes while this new one seems to be a bit more believable. You can see the thickness of the atmosphere when the Sun is directly behind Titan, which tends to be one of the more interesting ways to view this world. Also visible is what always appears to be a “break” in the uniformity of the haze at the lower-left corner (You can also see a similar break on the next image on the lower-right).
This second one is a more true “portrait” image of Titan in all its featureless glory (have we mentioned how much it just looks like Venus?). The difference here is you can really get a sense of the moon being “wrapped” in its atmosphere on the upper-right hand side where it almost seems like you are peering through the haze to another layer just below.
Officially this site’s most mentioned personality, Gordan Ugarkovic does it again with a series of color images combined to show an hour at Saturn. In addition to this being a gorgeous animation, the very image of Saturn and Titan in the same frame has thus far, in and of itself, been quite a rarity in the Cassini mission. The other moon visible in the shot is Dione.
Original image appears on the unmannedspaceflight forum.
Once upon a time I did a large number of book covers (or dust jackets) for a Sci-Fi publisher known as Tor Books. While looking through old back-up files today I found this one that featured Saturn’s rings and it’s now famous moon Titan. Since I am currently working on a poster that celebrates the Cassini mission, I thought I should post this design on here as it happens to be one of my favorites.
I would have to guess that I have been involved with designing around 200 book jackets designs for Tor, both before and after starting the Chopping Block. Among some of the more famous titles I got to work on were Jonathan Lethem’s “Gun with Occasional Music”, Kim Stanley Robinson’s “The Three Californias” trilogy and vampire title, (soon to be a major motion picture) “I am Legend”. The Lethem and “Legend” books had provided artwork, but we also got to do a few other Lethem titles where we did all the art as well as the design.
Image Note: I found this file (not shown) I thought was the hard cover artwork, but instead it was the less impressive mass market edition of the jacket. I will upload a better hi-res version next week when I get back to the office. In the meantime I found this version online of the hard-cover and tried to clean up the jpg artifacts the best I could.
Using an infrared camera, we see what Titan might look like if the atmosphere was at least partially clear. This is one of the more Earthly global images I have ever seen of Saturn’s biggest moon. Seeing as how this site’s focus on images is usually true-color and visible light, I rarely post anything on Titan’s surface which requires other means of seeing like radar or using alternate parts of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. This is unfortunate as Titan’s surface is one of the more fascinating places to consider when looking at our “local” cosmic neighborhood.
Once we leave the realm of Mars, Europa and Enceladus we have to entertain more fantastic possibilities for life elsewhere which are harder to imagine. Titan, it is assumed, would be far too cold all over (no warm spots here) for any form of life to ever take hold. However, this is assuming that all life-forms are carbon based and depend on water to survive.
On Titan we have what some call a much colder early Earth where methane plays the role that water does here on Earth. On Titan it rains methane and liquid methane collects on its surface to create rivers and even lakes. So what makes Titan an interesting subject in the conversation of where to look for life is only in that it seems so Earth-like. Compared to all the other bodies it is the only one that has almost everything Earth does – rivers, lakes, shores, volcanos, clouds, rain, lightning – an entire process that mimics the role water plays here on Earth only with methane instead, it even contains carbon compounds (the first essential to life). What if… in the remotest of possibilities… some form of life came to be here that instead thrives off of these elements? Perhaps all that life needs to thrive is a living planet which hosts materials that evaporate and make clouds which in turn rain those materials back down to the surface in liquid form to reshape and carve out the surface keeping it fresh. Who is to say that all life-forms in the universe need water and oxygen to exist? Why not sulfur? Why not Methane?
But life as we know it here at home is hardly likely on Titan. So far there is no evidence of water, temperatures or even oxygen to support a more earthly organism for even a scant of a second. Finding life in a place like Titan would be far more revolutionary than finding it on Mars, Europa or Enceladus because it would have to be so totally different from all living things that we have ever seen. It would change the very foundations of what we thought we knew about biology… Don’t get me wrong, life anywhere apart from Earth would be mind-blowing and the possibility of comparing a life-form which evolved wholly apart from all living things on Earth would be a staggeringly exciting concept to just about anybody. But discovering a life-form so totally independent from all the rules of Earth based biology would not only be fascinating, but it would also more or less verify that the universe is indeed lousy with all kinds of life-forms and would also many-fold increase the likelihood that somewhere out there are intelligent beings with which we may one day be able to communicate with. A situation that would suddenly turn science-fiction to fiction.
WALLPAPER NOTE: Color is subjective.
Titan is without a doubt, not only one of the most interesting moons, but it is easily one of the most interesting places in all the solar system. It has been determined that Titan is host to the only other lakes ever to be discovered off Earth! Data also supports the idea that Titan has rain and other kinds of weather as well as cryovolcanism (a type of cold volcano). Even with all this, it is near impossible to eek out an interesting image of the place as its thick atmosphere hides everything taking place on the surface. Additionally, similar to Venus and Uranus, the clouds fail to show much in the way of structure or detail as well.
WALLPAPER NOTE: The original image only revealed half the disc. To complete the full image the top half was taken, flipped and overlapped with another lesser impressive eclipse image to avoid obvious repeat. So, in reality, the lower half of the image is “faked” but it is composed entirely of real references.