Titan Unveiled


Wednesday, August 04 2010 - 12:00 pm, PDT
Ralph Lorenz
Applied Physics Laboratory

 Saturn's giant moon Titan has been of considerable interest since the presence of an atmosphere was hinted at one century ago. The NASA-ESA-ASI Cassini-Huygens mission, at Saturn for the last 4 years, has transformed this curious dot in the sky into a remarkably diverse, complex and interesting world, which is in many ways more Earth-like than anywhere in the solar system. This talk will summarize some of Cassini's recent findings with emphasis on the interactions between Titan's surface, atmosphere, and interior. These include dune-covered sand seas, river channels that attest to violent but perhaps rare downpours and climate change, hydrocarbon lakes and possible cryovolcanic features. The rich inventory of organics on Titan makes it a particularly appealing target for astrobiological studies.
Titan's thick atmosphere and low gravity permit a wide range of exploration vehicle types, notably aircraft and balloons. The scientific goals and technical features of vehicles and instruments for future exploration of Titan, will be discussed. 

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