Gallery of Our Solar System



The precise chemical composition of these very alien lakes and seas remained unknown until 2014, when Cassini's radar instrument detected Ligeia Mare, now known to be Titan's second-largest hydrocarbon-filled lake. Ligeia Mare is brimming with an abundance of sloshing methane, and this enormous liquid reservoir is approximately the same size as two of Earth's Great Lakes combined--Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Many planetary scientists think that the seabed of Ligeia Mare may be blanketed with a thick layer of sludge that is composed of organic-rich compounds. Organic dust forms when organic molecules, resulting from the interaction of sunlight with methane, grow large enough to tumble down to the surface of Titan. Dr. Roderiguez continued to explain that, even though this is the first-ever observation of a dust storm on Titan, the discovery is not especially surprising. A Distant, Dusty Moon. Titan experiences changing seasons--just like Earth. In particular, Titan's seasons change around the equinox, when our Sun passes Titan's equator. At this time, huge clouds can form in tropical areas, resulting in violent methane storms. Cassini observed these ferocious methane storms during several of its flybys over Titan.