Titan’s Dunes and Other Features Emerge in New Images
New scenes from a frigid alien landscape are coming to light in recent radar images of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
Cassini obtained the views during a close flyby of Titan on July 25, when the spacecraft came as close as 607 miles (976 kilometers) from the giant moon. The spacecraft’s radar instrument is able to penetrate the dense, global haze that surrounds Titan, to reveal fine details on the surface.
One of the new views (along with a short video) shows long, linear dunes, thought to be comprised of grains derived from hydrocarbons that have settled out of Titan’s atmosphere. Cassini has shown that dunes of this sort encircle most of Titan’s equator. Scientists can use the dunes to learn about winds, the sands they’re composed of, and highs and lows in the landscape.
“Dunes are dynamic features. They’re deflected by obstacles along the downwind path, often making beautiful, undulating patterns,” said Jani Radebaugh, a Cassini radar team associate at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
Another new image shows an area nicknamed the “Xanadu annex” earlier in the mission by members of the Cassini radar team. Cassini’s radar had not previously obtained images of this area, but earlier measurements by the spacecraft suggested the terrain might be quite similar to the large region on Titan named Xanadu.