Cool Astronaut in Space



Enshrouded in a dense golden hydrocarbon mist, Saturn's largest moon Titan is a mysterious mesmerizing world in its own right. For centuries, Titan's veiled, frigid surface was completely camouflaged by this hazy golden-orange cloud-cover that hid its icy surface from the prying eyes of curious observers on Earth. However, this misty moisty moon-world was finally forced to show its mysterious face, long-hidden behind its obscuring veil of fog, when the Cassini Spacecraft's Huygens Probe landed on its surface in 2004, sending revealing pictures back to astronomers on Earth. In September 2018, astronomers announced that new data obtained from Cassini show what appear to be gigantic, roaring dust storms, raging through the equatorial regions of Titan. The discovery, announced in the September 24, 2018 issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, makes this oddball moon-world the third known object in our Solar System--in addition to Earth and Mars--where ferocious dust storms have been observed. The observations are now shedding new light on the fascinating and dynamic environment of Titan, which is the second largest moon in our Solar System, after Ganymede of Jupiter. Dr. Soderblom and his team, including Dr. Maria Zuber, who is the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and MIT's vice president of research, have published their findings in the September 10, 2015 issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters. GRAIL has also generated new maps showing lunar crustal thickness. These maps have managed to uncover still more large impact basins on the near-side hemisphere of Earth's Moon--revealing that there are fewer such basins on the far-side, which is the side that is always turned away from Earth. This observation begs the question: How could this be if both hemispheres were on the receiving end of the same number of crashing, impacting, crater-excavating projectiles? According to GRAIL data, the answer to this riddle is that most of the volcanic eruptions on Earth's Moon occurred on its near-side hemisphere.