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Astro Bob

Dragonfly Drone To Explore Saturn’s Gassy Moon Titan

7 Jul 2019, 15:16 UTC
Dragonfly Drone To Explore Saturn’s Gassy Moon Titan
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Saturn’s largest moon Titan has a thick, smoggy atmosphere and is home to large lakes of liquid methane, which are visible in this image as darker blotches in the moon’s upper right. Titan’s largest sea is called the Kraken Mare. At 3,200 miles (5,150 km) in diameter Titan is 1.5 times larger than our moon. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Dutch astronomer Christopher Huygens discovered Saturn’s largest moon Titan in 1655. Not quite 300 years later, Dutch American astronomer Gerard Kuiper (yes, of Kuiper Belt fame) discovered it possessed an atmosphere. Kuiper passed light from the distant moon through a prism and identified the presence of methane gas.
Further observations from Earth and during Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft flybys revealed a mostly nitrogen (98.4 percent) atmosphere laced with methane and other organic molecules that create a thick orange smog obscuring the surface. Repeated observation by NASA’s orbiting Cassini probe and the Huygens lander found lakes, rivers and clouds made of bitterly cold, liquid hydrocarbons similar to the propane some of use to heat our homes.

Be there for the arrival and powering-up of the Dragonfly, slated for launch in 2026 and landing on Titan in 2034, in this simulation.
Given its thick ...

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