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Titan Baffles NASA Scientists

Saturday, May 28, 2005

NASA/JPL image of 'odd spot' on moon Titan 25052005 Posted by Hello
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File it away in the just interesting catagory: Nasa Scientists find spot on Saturn's moon Titan baffling! A short excerpt from the NASA/JPL media release is posted below along with the relevant links and some other interesting information.
Omnia Pro Iesu Per Mariam!!
Ed
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Saturn's moon Titan shows an unusual bright spot that has scientists mystified. The spot, approximately the size and shape of West Virginia, is just southeast of the bright region called Xanadu and is visible to multiple instruments on the Cassini spacecraft.
The 483-kilometer-wide (300-mile) region may be a "hot" spot -- an area possibly warmed by a recent asteroid impact or by a mixture of water ice and ammonia from a warm interior, oozing out of an ice volcano onto colder surrounding terrain. Other possibilities for the unusual bright spot include landscape features holding clouds in place or unusual materials on the surface.
"At first glance, I thought the feature looked strange, almost out of place," said Dr. Robert H. Brown, team leader of the Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer and professor at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson. "After thinking a bit, I speculated that it was a hot spot. In retrospect, that might not be the best hypothesis. But the spot is no less intriguing."
The Cassini spacecraft flew by Titan on March 31 and April 16. Its visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, using the longest, reddest wavelengths that the spectrometer sees, observed the spot, the brightest area ever observed on Titan.
Cassini's imaging cameras saw a bright, 550-kilometer-wide (345-mile) semi-circle at visible wavelengths at this same location on Cassini's December 2004 and February 2005 Titan flybys. "It seems clear that both instruments are detecting the same basic feature on or controlled by Titan's surface," said Dr. Alfred S. McEwen, Cassini imaging team scientist, also of the University of Arizona. "This bright patch may be due to an impact event, landslide, cryovolcanism or atmospheric processes. Its distinct color and brightness suggest that it may have formed relatively recently."
Other bright spots have been seen on Titan, but all have been transient features that move or disappear within hours, and have different spectral (color) properties than this feature. This spot is persistent in both its color and location. "It's possible that the visual and infrared spectrometer is seeing a cloud that is topographically controlled by something on the surface, and that this weird, semi-circular feature is causing this cloud," said Dr. Elizabeth Turtle, Cassini imaging team associate, also from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team will be able to test the hot spot hypothesis on the July 2, 2006, Titan flyby, when they take nighttime images of the same area. If the spot glows at night, researchers will know it's hot.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. For additional images visit the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer page at http://wwwvims.lpl.arizona.edu and the Cassini imaging team homepage http://ciclops.org.


Titan Statistics
Discovered by Christiaan Huygens
Date of discovery 1655
Mass (kg) 1.35e+23
Mass (Earth = 1) 2.2590e-02
Equatorial radius (km) 2,575
Equatorial radius (Earth = 1) 4.0373e-01
Mean density (gm/cm^3) 1.88
Mean distance from Saturn (km) 1,221,850
Rotational period (days) 15.94542
Orbital period (days) 15.94542
Mean orbital velocity (km/sec) 5.58
Orbital eccentricity 0.0292
Orbital inclination (degrees) 0.33
Escape velocity (km/sec) 2.65
Visual geometric albedo 0.21
Magnitude (Vo) 8.28
Mean surface temperature -178°C
Atmospheric pressure (bars) 1.5

In Greek mythology, the Titans are a race of godlike giants who were considered to be the personifications of the forces of nature. They are the twelve children (six sons and six daughters) of Gaia and Uranus. Each son married, or had children of, one of his sisters. They are: Cronus and Rhea, Iapetus and Themis, Oceanus and Tethys, Hyperion and Theia, Crius and Mnemosyne, and Coeus and Phoebe.


INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH:
THE FIRST READING OF THE MASS FOR MAY 25TH, 2005 WAS:


Sirach 36:1, 4-5a, 10-17

Come to our aid, O God of the universe,
look upon us, show us the light of your mercies,

and put all the nations in dread of you!
Thus they will know, as we know,
that there is no God but you, O Lord.

Give new signs and work new wonders.


Gather all the tribes of Jacob,
that they may inherit the land as of old,
Show mercy to the people called by your name;
Israel, whom you named your firstborn.
Take pity on your holy city,
Jerusalem, your dwelling place.
Fill Zion with your majesty,
your temple with your glory.

Give evidence of your deeds of old;
fulfill the prophecies spoken in your name,
Reward those who have hoped in you,
and let your prophets be proved true.
Hear the prayer of your servants,
for you are ever gracious to your people;
and lead us in the way of justice.
Thus it will be known to the very ends of the earth
that you are the eternal God.
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