Astronomy Picture of the Day
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October 21, 1995
A Glimpse of Titan's Surface
Peter H. Smith
UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
The surface of Titan,
largest moon, is normally hidden from
view by its thick, hazy atmosphere.
However, for the first time astronomers have been able to see
surface features in images like the one above, made at
near-infrared wavelengths with the Hubble
Space Telescope. At these wavelengths (longer than visible light)
Titan's smog like atmosphere begins to be transparent enough to allow
glimpses of it's surface.
The bright feature seen above is about 2,500 miles across,
similar in size to Australia.
Astronomers are still trying to work out what the bright and dark
areas represent - oceans, continents, craters, or other features.
The images represent important information for planning the
Cassini mission, scheduled for launch in 1997. The Cassini
spacecraft will explore the
Saturn system and parachute a
probe to Titan's surface.
Tomorrow's picture: A Quasar-Galaxy Collision?
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