Blog Archives

Dunes of Shangri-La on Saturn’s Moon Titan

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has radar vision that allows it to peer through the haze that surrounds Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. This video focuses on Shangri-la, a large, dark area on Titan filled with dunes. The long, linear dunes are thought to be comprised of grains derived from hydrocarbons that have settled out of Titan’s atmosphere. Cassini has shown that dunes of this sort encircle most of Titan’s equator. Scientists can use the dunes to learn about winds, the sands they’re composed of, and highs and lows in the landscape.

The radar image was obtained by the Cassini Synthetic Aperture radar (SAR) on July 25, 2016, during the mission’s 122nd targeted Titan encounter.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit and

Saturn’s Rings: An Accessible Astrophysical Disk – Matthew Tiscareno (SETI Talks)

Saturn’s ring system is an astrophysical disk that is neither light-years away nor billions of years in the past. We can visit this disk at close range and observe a number of phenomena that also operate in disks of other kinds. As a result, we see small-scale processes that shape ring texture, connect those processes to the bodies and structures that cause them, and watch closely as the disk changes with time.

We will discuss recent Cassini observations that elucidate disk processes including 1) “self-gravity wakes” and “spiral density waves,” both of which were originally proposed for galaxies but are observed with exquisite precision in Saturn’s rings, 2) “propeller” features caused by 100-meter to km-sized moonlets embedded in the disk; these are the first objects ever to have their orbits tracked while embedded in a disk, rather than orbiting in free space, and hold the potential of deepening our understanding of planetary migration, and 3) irregular edge shapes in the gaps opened up by larger moons (10 km and more), which may hold clues to angular momentum transport.

Approaching Titan a Billion Times Closer

Remember the Titan (Landing): Ten years ago today, Jan. 14, 2005, the Huygens probe touched down on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
This new, narrated movie was created with data collected by Cassini’s imaging cameras and the Huygens Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR). The first minute shows a zoom into images of Titan from Cassini’s cameras, while the remainder of the movie depicts the view from Huygens during the last few hours of its historic descent and landing.
It was October 15, 1997, when NASA’s Cassini orbiter embarked on an epic, seven-year voyage to the Saturnian system. Hitching a ride was ESA’s Huygens probe, destined for Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The final chapter of the interplanetary trek for Huygens began on 25 December 2004 when it deployed from the orbiter for a 21-day solo cruise toward the haze-shrouded moon. Plunging into Titan’s atmosphere, on January 14 2005, the probe survived the hazardous 2 hour 27 minute descent to touch down safely on Titan’s frozen surface. Today, the Cassini spacecraft remains in orbit at Saturn. Its mission will end in 2017, 20 years after its journey began. More information and images from the mission at

Cassini Saturn Arrival-The 10th Anniversary of Cassini

On June 30, 2004 (PDT), as mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory held their collective breath, the international Cassini-Huygens mission successfully arrived in orbit around Saturn. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft delivered the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe to Titan in early 2005. Cassini completed its four-year primary mission in 2008 and went on to perform dozens more flybys of Titan, Enceladus and Saturn’s other icy moons through its 10th anniversary in 2014. The mission may continue through 2017.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech