NASA / JPL
|Cassini's radar readings reveal a crater (left) and a dune field (right) on Titan.|
There's been a lot of weirdness in the space world this week - but if want to go beyond this planet for something really weird, the Saturnian moon Titan is a good place to look. Over the past three years, the Cassini spacecraft has been looking quite a bit, using several methods to cut through Titan's smoggy shroud. The piggyback Huygens probe descended through the murk and spotted channels that may have been cut by flowing methane. Meanwhile, instruments aboard Cassini itself peered through the haze to map strange dark areas that may be fields of hydrocarbon-laced sand.
Now a panorama from Cassini's radar imager has provided a wide-angle view of the dune fields, plus one of the few craters seen on the surface.
The longitudinal dunes appear to sweep around lighter areas of higher elevation, like sand raked around stones in a Zen garden. In this case, the sand is likely raked by Titan's strong winds. It turns out that the place has some pretty significant weather patterns, including a massive cloud system that came to light just last week.
NASA says the crater on the left side of the radar image, acquired Sept. 7, is notable because it's one of only three impact craters that have been positively identified on Titan.
While the radar team is mapping Titan's weird surface, Cassini's imaging team is churning out fresh pictures of the Saturnian system every day. So far this month, we've seen cool new views of the faint spokes in the planet's rings, a color-coded snapshot of the moon Tethys and much more.
So if you're in the mood for some all-natural weirdness rather than the tabloid variety, Cassini's got you covered.