The spectacle of the sun on Titan
NASA’s Cassini captured the bright sunlight reflected from the surface flat and smooth seas and basins that are located on the North Pole of the largest moon Titan. The phenomenon is that of specular reflection.
It is one of the moons of our solar system most studied and reserve every day surprises for researchers. Let’s talk about Titan, the largest natural satellite of Saturn and one of a kind because it has a dense atmosphere, as well as preserving the seas and lakes of liquid hydrocarbons (methane and nitrogen). A little over ten years, researchers around the world are keeping an eye on this moon thanks to NASA’s Cassini-Huygens probe, which continues to send us amazing images of Titan.
Titan’s seas are mostly liquid methane and ethane. Before Cassini’s arrival at Saturn, scientists suspected that Titan might have bodies of open liquid on its surface. Cassini found only great fields of sand dunes near the equator and lower latitudes, but located lakes and seas near the poles, particularly in the north.
The new view shows Titan in infrared light. It was obtained by Cassini’s Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) on Aug. 21.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The VIMS team is based at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
The specular point is located to the south of Titan’s largest lake, the sea Kraken. The solar beam in question, taken August 21, 2014, was so brilliant that was be able to saturate the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) mounted on the Cassini and it has even been possible to stare through the mist at wavelengths much lower than to what has been done so far, up to 1.3 microns. The southern part of the Sea Kraken shows a bright margin deposits evaporated, indicating that the sea was greater than in the past and it just got smaller due to evaporation.
The data at higher resolution obtained during this flyby show, instead, the corridor that joins Kraken to another great sea, the Ligeia, covered – even partially – by a brilliant complex of clouds in the shape of arrow and consist of droplets of liquid methane, which constantly enriches lakes and seas.
The image was obtained in natural colors, but not the ones that we would see if we were in front of the North Pole of Titan. In the past, Cassini had captured, separately, views of the polar seas and the sun glinting off them, but this is the first time both have been seen together in the same view.
In the image above, the red corresponds to 5.0 microns, green at 2.0 microns and blue to 1.3 microns. These wavelengths are the “windows” that Cassini’s infrared instruments can cross to observe Titan’s surface.
In fact, to the naked eye a human being would see nothing but fog, like in this picture below.