posted on Jul, 4 2004 @ 01:16 PM
On its first pass by Titan, Saturn's largest moon, the Cassini space probe took infrared photos of the moon's surface. The particular variations in
brightness observed, including in a photograph taken July 2 of an area near its south pole, apparently contradict scientists' earlier belief that
bright patches seen on the surface represented all of the water ice on Titan, which was thought to be pure water ice. Now, newly observed dark
patches are said to point to ice composed of water and organic material.
A PROBE has pierced the haze around Titan, Saturn's biggest moon, revealing details that have shattered theories about its composition.
Scientists believed bright patches on its surface seen earlier were pure water ice.
But the first infrared images taken by Cassini revealed water ice as dark patches because it is mixed with material that may be organic, raining on to
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Cassini had earlier acquired photographs of Titan's methane clouds and possibly a large impact crater. Coming as close as 350,000 km of the moon,
the Cassini probe was in a position to observe the surface with unprecedented distinctness.
While the atmosphere and soil of Titan might support the building blocks of life, it is not clear how life as we know it could develop at the
temperatures on the moon: -297 degrees Fahrenheit, -183 degrees Celsius at the surface. Oxygen is lacking, while nitrogen and methane are present.
The probe will come as close as 1200 km to the surface of Titan in October, yielding an even clearer picture of the moon below its atmosphere (which
blocks nearly all light of most wavelengths).
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[edit on 4-7-2004 by John bull 1]