Access Apollo Mission Badges



This important measurement was made using Cassini's INMS instrument, which detects gases with the goal of determining their composition. INMS was designed to sample the upper atmosphere of Saturn's large, smoggy moon Titan. However, after Cassini's surprising discovery of a tall plume if icy spray erupting from cracks on Enceladus in 2005, planetary scientists turned its detectors to that small moon. Despite this oddball moon's many exotic attributes, it actually sports one of the most Earth-like surfaces in our Solar System. Titan may also experience volcanic activity, but its volcanoes would erupt with different ingredients than the molten-rock lava that shoots out from the volcanoes of Earth. In dramatic contrast to what occurs on our own planet, Titan's volcanoes erupt icy water "lava" (cryovolcanism). Titan's entire alien surface has been sculpted by gushing methane and ethane, which carves river channels, and fills its enormous great lakes with liquid natural gas. We live in a Cosmic "shooting gallery". Objects inhabiting our Solar System have been profusely and mercilessly blasted by showering asteroids and comets for billions and billions of years. However, planets and large moons have their way of smoothing away the scars--their strong gravity pulls them into a nice ball-like spherical shape. Furthermore, some of these larger spheres possess sufficient internal heat to cause flows of fiery lava and other volcanic features that can fill in the scars of impact craters. A few such large bodies are blasted by strong winds and pouring rains, which also erode away the pockmarks left on their surfaces by showering impactors.