Vernal dawn is coming to Titan's far north
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla
05-02-2009 12:16 CST
Spring is coming to Titan's northern hemisphere (as it is to all the rest of Saturn's moons, along with Saturn itself). Consequently, the cameras are finally getting enough light to take photos of the lakes near the north pole; until now, they've pretty much been shrouded in shadow, visible only to the active sensor system of the RADAR instrument. Thanks to Gordan Ugarkovic for the tip on this image.And, while I'm giving props to Gordan, he also recently posted at unmannedspaceflight.com this image. No, it's not a goose egg; it's Saturn's moon Pallene, the second one discovered in Cassini images. The discovery was made by Cassini as it approached Saturn, before its orbit insertion; it took a long movie focused on one ansa (handle, or edge) of the rings, looking for dots that moved in a consistent fashion from frame to frame. Pallene's neighbor Methone was the first to be discovered in Cassini images. This really is the best image we have of Pallene, and because the narrow-angle camera is capable of higher resolution than any of Cassini's other instruments, this image basically summarizes everything we know about the little moon, apart from its orbital path. It's not much. No matter how much data Cassini takes, how many times the mission is extended, there will always be things left unstudied and more to explore. This is a tiny world, but it is a world, about the size of Steins or Wild 2, and those were unique and interesting -- I'm sure Pallene will be too, whenever we manage to get close enough to it to learn more.
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