NASA’s Cassini catches sunlight glinting off the oceans of Saturn’s moon!

NASA’s Cassini catches sunlight glinting off the oceans of Saturn’s moon ~  October 30, 2014.

Man, Cassini really is the best. The spacecraft, which orbits Saturn and is basically NASA’s pride and joy, keeps delivering both invaluable data and breathtaking photos. Including that one where Saturn looked like it had a creepy eye.

While it’s obviously a mosaic of several individual shots, the image above is certainly impressive. It’s the first time that one image shows both the polar seas of Titan (one of Saturn’s moons) and the aura of light caused by the sun hitting them. From NASA:

The sunglint, also called a specular reflection, is the bright area near the 11 o’clock position at upper left. This mirror-like reflection, known as the specular point, is in the south of Titan’s largest sea, Kraken Mare, just north of an island archipelago separating two separate parts of the sea.

These seas, which are made up of mostly methane and ethane, are on the planet’s poles — particularly in the north. The rest of the planet is mostly covered in sand dunes.

To the right of the yellow sunglint, the image also captures some bright methane clouds. It could be that these are producing liquid methane rain, keeping the polar seas full. And the bright outline that surrounds the sea (a “bathtub ring”) could represent the sea’s original outline, showing that it’s shrunk in size over time.

Rachel Feltman runs The Post’s Speaking of Science blog.


This near-infrared, color view from Cassini shows the sun glinting off of Titan’s north polar seas. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho)

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