Titan, one of Saturn's moons (Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, A. Pagan (STScI). Science: Webb Titan GTO Team)
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has captured new images of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Saturn's moon is the only moon in the Solar System (or beyond, for that matter) with a dense haze atmosphere, and the only one with rivers and meandering ridges, and soft sand dunes. There is also one fundamental difference: the rivers do not flow with water but with liquid methane, and the sand of the dunes is also not exactly the sand we know.
Titan is larger than the Earth's moon, and even larger than the planet Mercury. Furthermore, it is the celestial body The only one we know of in the Solar System other than Earth that has seasons characterized by changing methane currents. "We've been waiting years to use Webb's infrared technology to study Titan's atmosphere, including its fascinating weather patterns and gas composition, as well as see through the haze to study the bright and dark spots on the surface," says the principal investigator in the Webb observation team, Connor Nixon.
"Titan's atmosphere is incredibly interesting, not only because of its methane clouds and storms, but also because of what it can tell us about Titan's past and future—including whether it always had an atmosphere. We were completely satisfied with the initial results," Nixon added.
Images of Saturn's moon Titan taken by the James Webb Advanced Space Telescope's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on November 4, 2022.
The image on the left uses a filter sensitive to Titan's lower atmosphere, with the bright spots being prominent clouds in the northern hemisphere .
The image on the right is a composite image in color
Titan, as photographed by James Webb (Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, A. Pagan (STScI). Science: Webb Titan GTO Team)
According to the researchers, the newly captured evidence, as well as the first data from the Mid-Infrared Imaging and Spectrograph (MIRI) to be taken in May 2023, will provide information about the complex gases in Titan's atmosphere, as well as crucial clues to deciphering why Titan is the only moon in the Solar System with a dense atmosphere.