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All Images


Press Release 09-172
Unraveling the Chemistry of Titan's Hazy Atmosphere

Research study provides information about how a key molecule in Titan's atmosphere may be formed and offers clues to the evolution of Titan's and Earth's atmospheres

Back to article | Note about images

A photo of a natural color view of Saturn and Titan.

This natural color view of Saturn and Titan was created by combining images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters. The images were acquired with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 29, 2008, at a distance of approximately 1.4 million miles, or 2.2 million kilometers, from Titan and 630,000 miles, or 1,013,887 kilometers, from Saturn. At 3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers, across, Titan is Saturn's largest moon and the second largest moon in the solar system. The distance between Earth and Titan is 746 million miles, or 1.2 billion kilometers. Titan's atmosphere is approximately 95 percent nitrogen with traces of methane and it is the only solar system body besides Earth and Venus with a solid surface and thick atmosphere. While Earth's atmosphere extends about 37 miles, or 60 kilometers, into space, Titan's atmosphere extends over 370 miles, or 595 kilometers, into space. Of Saturn's 61 moons, Titan was the first to be discovered in 1655 by Christiaan Huygens. Giovanni Domenico Cassini discovered the next four moons between 1671 and 1684.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute, http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA09856


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Three views of Titan.

The first image, a natural color composite, is a combination of images taken through three filters that are sensitive to red, green and violet light. It shows approximately what Titan would look like to the human eye: a hazy orange globe surrounded by a tenuous, bluish haze. The orange color is due to the hydrocarbon particles which make up Titan's atmospheric haze. The second, monochrome view shows what Titan looks like at 938 nanometers, a near-infrared wavelength that allows Cassini to see through the hazy atmosphere and down to the surface. The view was created by combining three separate images taken with this filter, in order to improve the visibility of surface features. The third view, which is a false-color composite, was created by combining two infrared images, taken at 938 and 889 nanometers, with a visible light image, taken at 420 nanometers. Green represents areas where Cassini is able to see down to the surface. Red represents areas high in Titan's stratosphere where atmospheric methane is absorbing sunlight. Blue along the moon's outer edge represents visible violet wavelengths at which the upper atmosphere and detached hazes are better seen. All of these images were taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide angle camera on April 16, 2005, at distances ranging from approximately 107,500 to 104,500 miles from Titan.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute, http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA06227


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Photo of Titan's upper atmosphere and its many fine layers of haze.

Cassini has found Titan's upper atmosphere to consist of a surprising number of layers of haze, as shown in this ultraviolet image of Titan's night-side limb, colorized to look like true color. The many fine haze layers extend several hundred kilometers above the surface. Although this is a night side view, with only a thin crescent receiving direct sunlight, the haze layers are bright from light scattered through the atmosphere. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute, http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA06160


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Ball-and-stick images of a radical ethynyl, acetylene, diacetylene and triacetylene molecule.

Left to right: ball-and-stick images of a radical ethynyl, acetylene, diacetylene and triacetylene molecule. Ethynyl has a lone electron on its terminal carbon atom and it is this lone or radical electron that initiates ethynyl's attack on other molecules. The lone electron is depicted by the white triangle-shaped figure. All atoms in the molecules are connected by either a single or triple bond. Carbon atoms are black and hydrogen atoms are blue.

Credit: Ralf Kaiser and Xibin Gu, Department of Chemistry, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii


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Illustration of the European Space Agency's Huygens probe descent to Titan's surface.

An artist's concept showing the European Space Agency's Huygens probe descent sequence. The animation shows the Huygens probe's entry, descent and landing, with the descent imager/spectral radiometer lamp turned on at the end. The probe was delivered to Saturn's moon Titan by the Cassini spacecraft.

Credit: NASA/JPL/ESA, http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA06434


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An image of rock-like objects on Titan's surface.

Image taken Jan. 14, 2005, by the European Space Agency's Huygens probe during its successful descent to land on Titan. This is a colored view image, following processing to add reflection spectra data, and gives a better indication of the actual color of the surface. The two rock-like objects just below the middle of the image are about 6 inches and about 1.5 inches across respectively, at a distance of about 33 inches from Huygens. The surface is darker than originally expected, consisting of a mixture of water and hydrocarbon ice. There is also evidence of erosion at the base of these objects, indicating possible activity by rivers and streams. The image was taken with the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer, one of two NASA instruments on the probe.

Credit: NASA/JPL/ESA/University of Arizona, http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA07232


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