First decent views of the surface of Titan

In case you’ve been living in a box somewhere, the NASA/ESA spacecraft Cassini-Huygens successfully fired its rockets on July 1, slowing down enough to be captured by Saturn’s gravity and enter a highly elliptical orbit around Saturn. If the rocket burn had failed, Saturn’s gravity boost would have given Cassini enough velocity to escape the solar system, so this was a fairly important part of the 7-year mission.

Cassini threaded a gap in the rings (twice), flew within one Saturn-diameter of Saturn, and took some ultra-close snapshots of Saturn’s rings. Soon afterwards, Cassini made a moderately close Titan flyby, getting the first decent images of the surface of the solar system’s second-biggest moon.

Clicking these thumbnails will take you to the full resolution version on the NASA website.

As you can see (left), in the wavelengths of visible light (400-700 nanometers), Titan appears covered in impenetrable red haze. However, by using longer infrared wavelengths (2000, 2800, and 5000 nanometers), the Cassini cameras can peer through the haze.

The central image is a false-color composite of images taken at these longer wavelengths (right).

No one website seems to have all of the new images in one place. Below are the ones that I have found to be useful.

* Latest press images

* Latest raw images

* NASA Flash site on Cassini Mission

* More processed images at

* A pretty spiffy Quicktime movie of Cassini’s rings encounter

* Cassini’s current position