Science

Cassini Captures Detailed Images Of Sand Dunes In Saturn's Moon Titan

By Jiran , Sep 21, 2016 03:00 AM EDT
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Cassini has captured detailed images of sand dunes in Titan. It's a part the spacecraft's last mission on the moon's southern terrain.

Cassini's Special Radar Instrument

Cassini is an orbiter of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The images were taken on July 25, 2016. Cassini flew by Titan for the 122nd time. NASA revealed that it was just 607 miles above the moon's southern hemisphere.

These sand dunes were specifically seen on Titan's Shangri-La Sand Sea. It's a large dark region with hundreds of long and linear dunes, according to the Seeker. This is not the first time the area was captured. Though the recent images are more detailed.

The orbiter also caught the Xanadu annex. It lies south of the Xanadu region. The said region has Earth-like landscape. Cassini also took shots of the place back in 1994.

Titan's surface is normally not really visible with conventional cameras. That is caused by its thick and hazy atmosphere. However, Cassini is well equipped. It has a special radar instrument that could see through the murkiness. This is achieved by beaming radio waves down to the surface.

The said radio waves will bounce off the moon's surface. The orbiter would receive waves that may vary. It is dependable on the ground's features. The difference can also alter the wavelengths. Eventually, the radar instrument will be able to construct landscape images.

Titans's Massive Sand Dunes

Titan is basically filled with sand dunes. The physical feature might seem similar to the ones on Earth. But they are actually made of grainy hydrocarbons rather than silicates. They were formed in the atmosphere. Then, they precipitated onto the ground.

The dunes are also evidently massive. Its height is nothing lower than 300 feet. They are way taller than the sand dunes on Earth. 

Studying the dunes helps scientists to know about Titan's surface topography. It provides information about the moon's wind patterns.

Cassini's Mission Will Soon End

Cassini will now focus on the lakes and seas in Titan's far north. That will take four remaining flybys. The end of its mission will start in April 2017. It will plunge straight into Saturn's atmosphere.

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