Exploring Titan

2012 - Back to Titan. An autonomous airship exploits Titan's thick atmosphere and low gravity to explore the near-surface environment. The airship communicates direct-to-Earth with a large electronically-steered phased-array antenna. Here it uses its thruster fans to hold position in the gentle breeze that is whipping up waves in an ethane lake.Having profiled the depth of the lake with a ground-penetrating radar,the airship is acquiring surface material with a tethered sample acquisition device to analyze it for prebiotic compounds.

The support of the Arizona Space Grant Consortium and the Cassini Project is acknowledged. This artwork may be used without express permission by News media and for nonprofit educational and personal noncommercial purposes but must be accompanied with the credit 'by Mark Robertson-Tessi and Ralph Lorenz'. Permission for commercial purposes other than news reporting must be requested in writing.

(Tiff)

Alternate Reality. In this rendering, the Huygens probe (shape model derived from various sources) is about to splash down on the Saturn side of Titan, rather than on the antisaturn side we will actually visit. (In fact, Saturn's proximity to the horizon shows we are close to +/-80 degrees longitude : the orientation of the rings as near-vertical shows we are close to the equator. The sun's position relative to Saturn shows we are close to summer solstice, although from this image you can't tell north from south...) Titan's atmosphere really should be this transparent, at least at some wavelengths accessible to cameras, if not to the naked eye.

The support of the Arizona Space Grant Consortium and the Cassini Project is acknowledged. This artwork may be used without express permission by News media and for nonprofit educational and personal noncommercial purposes but must be accompanied with the credit 'by Mark Robertson-Tessi and Ralph Lorenz'. Permission for commercial purposes other than news reporting must be requested in writing.

(Hi Res Tiff)

Geyser with Rainbow

Droplets of methane-rich liquid may occur in Titan's atmosphere, as clouds and rain, or from methane geysers as shown here. Methane drops will make rainbows, although these will be a little larger than those water makes on Earth due to the lower refractive index. Note too that the haze absorbs blue light, so only red and a little yellow light makes it down to the surface. Also the rainbow will have some dark notches in the methane absorption bands, the same absorptions by which the atmosphere was first discovered.

The support of the Arizona Space Grant Consortium and the Cassini Project is acknowledged. This artwork may be used without express permission by News media and for nonprofit educational and personal noncommercial purposes but must be accompanied with the credit 'by Mark Robertson-Tessi and Ralph Lorenz'. Permission for commercial purposes other than news reporting must be requested in writing.

(larger version unavailable)

Titan's Landscape

A scientifically-inspired artistic rendering of Titan's hypothesized landscape. Seen from a viewpoint 50km up, the planetary curvature of Titan (radius 2575km) is evident. A 60-km impact crater, to left, has an updomed floor and a central pit, as seen in craters of this size on the icy satellite Ganymede : On Titan, however, the crater has partially filled with black hydrocarbon liquids - methane and ethane. A few other craters and tectonic landforms litter the landscape, which is only weakly modified by erosion. Distant clouds hover at around 20km altitude.

The support of the Arizona Space Grant Consortium and the Cassini Project is acknowledged. This artwork may be used without express permission by News media and for nonprofit educational and personal noncommercial purposes but must be accompanied with the credit 'by Mark Robertson-Tessi and Ralph Lorenz'. Permission for commercial purposes other than news reporting must be requested in writing.

(larger version unavailable)

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