Worlds bigger than worlds

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
March 1 2012 7:00 AM

Worlds bigger than worlds

Because I love each and every one of you, here is a fantastic portrait of two worlds: Saturn and its ginormous moon Titan, courtesy of the Cassini spacecraft:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Advertisement

Isn't that breathtaking? [Click to encronosenate.]

I love the panoply of shadows from the rings on the cloud tops of the gas giant planet, clearly showing Saturn has not one big ring, but thousands of thin ringlets. You can also see subtle patterns in the clouds as well. If you look very closely, you'll see the shadow of the moon Prometheus on the left just below the ring shadows -- the moon itself is the white speck just above the rings to the right, just to the right of Saturn's limb -- as well as the shadow of the moon Pandora on the right below the rings. Pandora itself is well outside the frame of this shot though.

Of course, fuzzy Titan looms of the planet's edge on the right as well. Titan is huge, bigger than Mercury, and if Saturn weren't there might be considered a planet in its own right. But definitions aside, Titan is a varied and complex place, worthy of intense study. It has weather, lakes of liquid methane, dunes blown and sculpted by wind, and boulders made of water ice harder then rock is on Earth.

Who wouldn't want to take a closer look at a world like that?

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute



Related Posts:


  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Nov. 21 2014 1:38 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? See if you can keep pace with the copy desk, Slate’s most comprehensive reading team.