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Cassini images dunelands on Saturn's moon Titan
by Brooks Hays
Pasadena, Calif. (UPI) Nov 2, 2015

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Cassini's documentation of Saturn and its myriad satellites continues. On Monday, NASA shared a new Cassini image showcasing the dunelands of Titan, the largest of Saturn's moons.

Through the haze of Titan's atmosphere, the image reveals two vast regions of dunes, Fensal to the north and Aztlan to the south. Titan's dunes are made of hydrocarbon sands. A patch of vertically oriented dunes connects the two regions, forming an dark H-like shape on the moon's otherwise white icy surface.

Composed mostly of water ice and rocky material, Titan is both strange and familiar. Like Earth, it boasts clouds, rain and lakes, but they're made of liquid methane and ethane.

Unlike Earth, Titan receives barely any sun. Yet, its atmosphere, comprised mostly of nitrogen with a small amount of methane, is twice as thick as Earth's. Methane's greenhouse gas effect keeps Titan warmer than it would otherwise be -- a balmy negative 179 degrees Celsius.

Despite the thick atmosphere, the moon hosts relatively few clouds, enabling Cassini to photograph its many unique features.

Cassini's infrared light imager captured the newly shared photo on July 25, 2015. The probe, which has been exploring Saturn and its moons since 2006, periodically surveys Titan for surface changes -- helping scientists better understand Titan's weather patterns and geological processes.

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