Giant Crater on Titan

February 17, 2005
 A huge annular feature with an outer diameter of approximately 440 kilometers

A giant impact crater the size of Iowa was spotted on Saturn's moon Titan by NASA's Cassini radar instrument during Tuesday's Titan flyby. Cassini flew within 1,577 kilometers (980 miles) of Titan's surface and its radar instrument took detailed images of the surface. This is the third close Titan flyby of the mission, which began in July 2004, and only the second time the radar instrument has examined Titan. Scientists see some things that look familiar, along with scenes that are completely new.

It's reassuring to look at two parts of Titan and see similar things," said Dr. Jonathan Lunine, Cassini interdisciplinary scientist from the University of Arizona, Tucson. "At the same time, there are new and strange things."

This flyby is the first time that Cassini's radar and the imaging camera overlapped. This overlap in coverage should be able to provide more information about the surface features than either technique alone. The 440-kilometer-wide (273-mile) crater identified by the radar instrument was seen before with Cassini's imaging cameras, but not in this detail.

A second radar image released today shows features nicknamed "cat scratches". These parallel linear features are intriguing, and may be formed by winds, like sand dunes, or by other geological processes.

Explore further: Deserts and dunes—Earth as an analogue for Titan

Related Stories

Deserts and dunes—Earth as an analogue for Titan

November 6, 2015

By comparing radar images of areas on Titan to those of Earth's deserts, scientists have identified two distinct types of sand dune on Saturn's largest moon – and discovered eroded structures that indicate that Titan's ...

New system giving SMAP scientists the speed they need

October 29, 2015

For scientists now studying the voluminous amounts of data collected daily by NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission, speed is everything. A new NASA-developed data-transmission technology installed at the U.S. ...

Saturn's moon Titan

October 5, 2015

In ancient Greek lore, the Titans were giant deities of incredible strength who ruled during the legendary Golden Age and gave birth to the Olympian gods we all know and love. Saturn's largest moon, known as Titan, is therefore ...

CARS: A brand-by-brand look at new 2016 models

September 8, 2015

The 2016 model year has plenty of workhorses, including new versions of the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Titan pickups, Chevrolet Malibu and Kia Optima sedans and the Honda Civic small car.

What's baking on Saturn's moon Titan?

October 16, 2012

(—Radar images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft reveal some new curiosities on the surface of Saturn's mysterious moon Titan, including a nearly circular feature that resembles a giant hot cross bun and shorelines ...

A new way to view Titan: 'Despeckle' it

February 14, 2015

During 10 years of discovery, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has pulled back the smoggy veil that obscures the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Cassini's radar instrument has mapped almost half of the giant moon's surface; ...

Recommended for you

'Material universe' yields surprising new particle

November 25, 2015

An international team of researchers has predicted the existence of a new type of particle called the type-II Weyl fermion in metallic materials. When subjected to a magnetic field, the materials containing the particle act ...

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...

New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

November 25, 2015

Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.