Tuesday, December 20, 2022

James Webb Space Telescope Captures Its First Image Of Saturn's Largest Moon Titan

Titan's atmosfere is incredibly interesting, not only due to its methane clouds and storms, but also because of what it can tell astronomers about Titan's past and future. The current atmosphere can also tell researchers whether Titan always had an atmosphere.

NASA has shared two images of Titan captured by Webb. The image seen on the left has been captured using F212N, a 2.12-micron filter sensitive to Titan's lower atmosphere. The bright spots seen on the moon are prominent clouds in the northern hemisphere. 

The image on the right is a colour-composite image captured using a combination of NIRCam filters. Some of the prominent surface features labelled on the image are Kraken Mare, Belet and Adiri. Kraken Mare is thought to be a methane sea, Adiri is a bright albedo feature (fraction of light reflected by a body), and Belet is composed of dark-coloured sand dunes.

A team of researchers compared different images captured by Webb's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), and confirmed that a bright spot visible in Titan's northern hemisphere was in fact a large cloud. The researchers also noticed a second cloud.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, A. Pagan (STScI). Science: Webb Titan GTO Team

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