Hubble Birth of a Star



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. For this reason, astronomers have for years considered the possibility that hydrocarbon lakes and seas might exist on the surface of this misty moisty moon. The data derived from Cassini/Huygens validated this prediction. During its long and productive mission, now over, Cassini revealed that almost 2% of Titan's entire bizarre surface is coated wth gasoline-like liquids. 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.