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Cassini science update
Radar imagery of Saturn's moon Titan and other new data from the Cassini spacecraft is presented during this JPL news conference on Thursday. (54min 48sec file)
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Post-flyby briefing
Scientists and mission officials discuss the initial pictures and data obtained during Cassini's flyby of Titan during this JPL news conference on Wednesday. (55min 18sec file)
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First pictures
The first pictures taken by Cassini during this close encounter with Titan are received at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to the delight of the mission's imaging leader. (2min 21sec file)
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Images flood in
A Cassini mission scientist provides analysis as the raw images taken of Titan's surface flood into the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (29min 29sec file)
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Flyby explained
Detailed animation illustrates Cassini's flyby of Titan and how the probe's instruments will study this moon of Saturn. Expert narration is provided by a project official. (3min 09sec file)
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Titan knowledge
Knowledge about the mysterious moon Titan prior to this first close encounter is described by the Cassini mission's imaging leader. (6min 46sec file)
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Moving clouds
Clouds near the south pole of Titan can be seen moving in this collection of pictures from Cassini as narrated by the mission's imaging leader. (2min 12sec file)
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Picture processing
How Cassini's raw pictures are processed by scientists is explained in this interview with the mission imaging leader. (5min 56sec file)
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Cassini radar sees flow-like feature across Titan
Posted: November 8, 2004

A strikingly bright, lobate feature has turned up in one of Cassini's first radar images of Saturn's moon Titan.

"It may be something that flowed," Cassini radar team member Ralph Lorenz of the University of Arizona said. "Or it could be something carved by erosion. It's too early to say.

"But it looks very much like it's something that oozed across the surface. It may be some sort of 'cryovolcanic' flow, an analog to volcanism on Earth that is not molten rock but, at Titan's very cold temperatures, molten ice."

This is a synthetic aperture radar image of Titan. Dark regions may represent areas that are smooth, made of radar-absorbing materials, or are sloped away from the direction of illumination. A striking lobate bright feature stretches from upper left to lower right across this image, with connected 'arms' to the east. The fact that the lower (southern) edges of the features are brighter is consistent with the lobate structure being raised above the relatively featureless darker background. Credit: NASA/JPL
Cassini radar mapped about one percent of Titan's surface during the Cassini spacecraft's first close Titan flyby Oct. 26. The radar survey covered a strip 75 miles wide (120 kilometers) and 1,200 miles (1,960 kilometers) long in Titan's northern hemisphere.

Cassini was flying about 1,550 miles (2,494 kilometers) above Titan's surface, with its radar centered at about 45 degrees north, 30 degrees west, when it mapped the 90-square-mile (230-square-kilometer) area shown in the new radar image.

The Cassini radar team presented the image today at the 86th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society Division of Planetary Sciences in Louisville, Ky.

The radar instrument works by bouncing radio signals off Titan's surface and timing their return. The more signal reflected back to the spacecraft, the brighter the imaged area. Turning radio signals into radar images is time consuming because so many numerical calculations must be made. "There's no such thing as a 'raw' radar image," Lorenz said.

But two days after the Oct. 26 flyby, Cassini scientists knew that Titan is no impact-crater-pocked dead world, but a much more interesting place. Titan's surface is young -- it's been shaped by dynamic geologic processing, Lorenz, Cassini interdisciplinary scientist Jonathan Lunine of the University of Arizona, and other Cassini scientists agree.

Given this newest image, Lunine said, "Radar has provided the first evidence for possible young cryovolcanism on Titan's surface. Now our challenge is to find out what is flowing, how it works, and the implications for Titan's evolution."

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The radar instrument team is based at JPL, working with team members from the United States and several European countries.

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