February 23, 2012
This series of false-color images obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows the dissolving cloud cover over the north pole of Saturn’s moon Titan. The images, obtained by Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS), cover 2006 to 2009, when Titan was transitioning from northern winter to northern spring. In 2006, the north polar cloud appeared dense and opaque. But in spectrometer images obtained around the 2009 equinox, when the sun was directly over Saturn and Titan’s equators and northern winter was turning into spring, the cloud appeared much thinner and patchier. The dissipating cloud allowed scientists to see the underlying northern lakes and seas, including Kraken Mare. The northern seas and lakes on the surface below, made of liquid hydrocarbons, look like dark jigsaw puzzle pieces in the false-color images.
Scientists colorized the VIMS image by assigning red, green and blue to the parts of the infrared spectrum around 5 micrometers, 2.8 micrometers and 2.03 micrometers, respectively. The images create a kind of time-lapse series from Dec. 28, 2006 to June 6, 2009.
For another view of these images, see Changes in Titan’s North Polar Cloud.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, DC. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer was built by JPL, with a major contribution by the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer science team is based at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/ .
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/CNRS/LPGNantes