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 ...

Cassini explores a methane sea on Titan

April 26, 2016

Of the hundreds of moons in our solar system, Titan is the only one with a dense atmosphere and large liquid reservoirs on its surface, making it in some ways more like a terrestrial planet.

What's baking on Saturn's moon Titan?

October 16, 2012

(Phys.org)—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; ...

Cassini spies Titan's tallest peaks

March 24, 2016

In a nod to extraterrestrial mountaineers of the future, scientists working on NASA's Cassini mission have identified the highest point on Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

Recommended for you

Information engine operates with nearly perfect efficiency

January 19, 2018

Physicists have experimentally demonstrated an information engine—a device that converts information into work—with an efficiency that exceeds the conventional second law of thermodynamics. Instead, the engine's efficiency ...

New research challenges existing models of black holes

January 19, 2018

Chris Packham, associate professor of physics and astronomy at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), has collaborated on a new study that expands the scientific community's understanding of black holes in our galaxy ...

Team takes a deep look at memristors

January 19, 2018

In the race to build a computer that mimics the massive computational power of the human brain, researchers are increasingly turning to memristors, which can vary their electrical resistance based on the memory of past activity. ...

0 comments

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.