"Titan Globe" by NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute / Public Domain

A whole new world: astronomers draw first global map of Titan

Nov 19, 2019

By Jonathan O’Callaghan

Astronomers have used data from NASA’s Cassini mission to map the entire surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, for the first time. Their charts reveal a diverse terrain of mountains, plains, valleys, craters and lakes unlike anywhere in the Solar System outside Earth.

The Cassini spacecraft orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017 and collected vast amounts of information about the gas giant and its moons. The mission included more than 100 fly-bys of Titan, allowing researchers to glimpse the moon’s surface through its thick atmosphere and survey its terrain in unprecedented detail.

Rosaly Lopes, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and her colleagues stitched together images and radar measurements taken by the spacecraft to produce the first global map of Titan (see ‘Titan’s terrain’), which they published on 18 November in Nature Astronomy1.

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