Worlds bigger than worlds

By Phil Plait | March 1, 2012 7:00 am

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:

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:

The scale of Saturn
A window into Titan
Titanic slice
An icy Titanic encounter

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (12)

  1. Stathis Dimopoulos

    My poor 8″ dob shows very little of the Saturnian magic. I wish I had time and money to build a nice 36″ reflector. Even a 1m does not compare to Cassini’s cameras but you get nice planetary views.

  2. Satan Claws

    (HAL/Bowman/Monolith, “2010, The Second Odyssey”, 1984.)

  3. Mark

    “boulders made of water ice harder then rock is on Earth.”

    Please fix the typo/grammar error in that sentence!

  4. Wow! Pandora? You really must love this system. ūüėČ

  5. llewelly

    “Who wouldn‚Äôt want to take a closer look at a world like that?”

    … you haven’t forgotten what was done to the planetary science budget, have you?

  6. Chris

    Just hope we don’t send a probe to drill into Pandora. Never ends well.

  7. Belynda

    Simply lovely. Thank you for sharing.

  8. That’s awesome. Although, Titan is feeling a little inadequate in this one. “But Phil, I don’t FEEL ginormous right about now.”

  9. thetentman

    thank you Phil, we feel the same way about you.

  10. Calamity Janeway

    Beautiful…although looking for the tiny shadow of Prometheus made me realize how dirty my screen is. “Oh, there it is!” [scroll] “Nope, that was a smudge.”

  11. A nice reminder of just how small we all really are in the universe. Thank you.

  12. Melusine

    That tiny tiny black dot is Prometheus’s shadow? Poor thing, Titan rules. Another beautiful Saturn image.

    BTW, I always look forward to your next made-up word for expanding a photo: encronosenate. You ought to make a dictionary; what the prefix means is beyond me…like outer space beyond.


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