New success of the Cassini mission. When scientists are already thinking of sending the first alien ship Titan, the NASA probe has succeeded in capturing for the first time, the reflection of sun on a lake in the northern hemisphere of Saturn’s enigmatic moon. Which irrefutably confirms the presence of fluid in that region of the satellite.
Cassini scientists have long sought such an image. In fact, from the very moment when the NASA spacecraft began orbiting Saturn in 2004. However, the northern hemisphere of Titan, where there are many more lakes in the south, has remained all this time in darkness of the very long winter of system governed by the ringed giant. The sunlight did not begin to illuminate the desired area until shortly before the equinox in August this year, which marked the beginning of spring in the cold northern hemisphere and its largest satellites.
Nor has helped scientists that the hazy atmosphere of Titan is able to block the reflection of sunlight in many wavelengths. The desired image was taken at last on 8 July 2009, using the infrared spectrometer on Cassini. The dramatic picture was presented on 18 December during the meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
“This single image tells us much of Titan” said Bob Pappalardo, Cassini principal investigator. It is a strange combination of strangeness and yet of similarity to Earth. This picture is one of the iconic images from Cassini.
As on Earth
It is precisely because of its many similarities with our planet that Titan has fascinated scientists, who for over two decades entertain the view that under its icy surface has lakes, even whole seas of hydrocarbons in the liquid state, thus turning the moon in the Second World Solar System (the first is the Earth) capable of holding liquid mass on its surface. However, the data collected by the probe are not sufficient to infer the presence of oceans, although large lakes, especially concentrated around the poles.
In 2008, mission scientists were able to confirm the presence of fluid in Lake Ontario, the largest of any on the southern hemisphere of Titan. But they had no concrete evidence to enable them to confirm the presence of fluid also in the north.
It was Katrin Stephan, the German Aerospace Center in Berlin and the computer scientist who operates the infrared spectrometer, the first person who, after processing the image, saw the reflection of the sun shine on 10 July. “I was very excited because I remembered a flash image of our own planet taken from a satellite in Earth orbit. A picture showing the reflection of sunlight on an ocean.
Researchers have been able to relate the reflection with the southern shoreline of a large lake named Kraken Mare. A lake covering an area of nearly 400,000 sq km (more than our Caspian Sea, the largest lake on Earth).
‘Our findings reaffirm that Titan is unique in the solar system, “says Ralf Jaumann, another member of the team.
Cortesía de ABC,España