Titan’s Clouds

Here is what is likely one of the last good looks at Titan’s atmosphere from Cassini.

From the Cassini caption: NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured this view of bands of bright, feathery methane clouds drifting across Saturn’s moon Titan on May 7, 2017.

The view was obtained during a distant (non-targeted) flyby, during which Cassini passed 303,000 miles (488,000 kilometers) above the moon’s surface. Although Cassini will have no further close, targeted flybys of Titan, the spacecraft continues to observe the giant moon and its atmosphere from a distance.

The dark regions at top are Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes and seas.

The image was taken on May 7, 2017, at a distance of 316,000 miles (508,000 kilometers). The view is an orthographic projection centered on 57 degrees north latitude, 48 degrees west longitude. An orthographic view is most like the view seen by a distant observer. Image scale is about 2 miles (3 kilometers) per pixel.

What about the future of NASA exploration?  Following Cassini’s epic mission is going to be tough.

The proposals are being reviewed by NASA and while we don’t have specifics of course, we do have the six themes for the new proposals for a possible mission in the mid-2020’s:

  • Comet Surface Sample Return
  • Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return
  • Ocean Worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus)
  • Saturn Probe
  • Trojan Tour and Rendezvous
  • Venus In Situ Explorer

Keep in mind the first on the list is in progress, the OSIRIS-REx, which will rendezvous with and return a sample of asteroid Bennu.  Other than that, the only one I would change maybe, would be the Saturn Probe, my version would be the Neptune probe.  They all do look pretty good so the choice will not be easy.

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