INCREDIBLE PHOTO: Sun reflecting off of Saturn's moon - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

INCREDIBLE PHOTO: Sun reflecting off of Saturn's moon

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Photo released by NASA of sun glinting off of polar sea on Titan, one of Saturn's many moons (PHOTO Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho) Photo released by NASA of sun glinting off of polar sea on Titan, one of Saturn's many moons (PHOTO Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho)
Full size version of Titan (PHOTO: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho) Full size version of Titan (PHOTO: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho)
KHQ.com -

Space sure is cool. If you need evidence of this simplistic statement, you're in the right place. 

NASA released an incredible image this week, showing the sun glinting off of polar seas on Titan, one of Saturn's many moons. 

The photo highlights the south of Titan's largest sea, Kraken Mare, just north of an island archipelago that separates two parts of the sea. I write that as if everyone is familiar with Kraken Mare. "You know Kraken Mare? Beautiful vacation destination. A little spendy, but not as touristy as Ligeia Mare." Pretty far-fetched, but Titan is the largest of Saturn's moons and is the only natural satellite known to have a dense atmosphere. Scientists say it actually resembles a frozen earth from a billion years ago, so maybe in a few billion years, we'll be vacationing on the coast of Kraken Mare. 

Ok, back to reality. The photo. It is spectacular. I'll let the smart folks at NASA explain in their super scientific words what exactly you're looking at. They posted this on their Facebook page: 

This near-infrared, color mosaic from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the sun glinting off of Titan's north polar seas. While Cassini has captured, separately, views of the polar seas and the sun glinting off of them in the past, this is the first time both have been seen together in the same view.

The sunglint, also called a specular reflection, is the bright area near the 11 o'clock position at upper left. This mirror-like reflection, known as the specular point, is in the south of Titan's largest sea, Kraken Mare, just north of an island archipelago separating two separate parts of the sea.

This particular sunglint was so bright as to saturate the detector of Cassini's Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) instrument, which captures the view. It is also the sunglint seen with the highest observation elevation so far -- the sun was a full 40 degrees above the horizon as seen from Kraken Mare at this time -- much higher than the 22 degrees seen before. Because it was so bright, this glint was visible through the haze at much lower wavelengths than before, down to 1.3 microns.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho


Make sense? Sure. And hey, check it out! Our very own University of Idaho had a hand in this! Go Vandals! 

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