NASA Pictures of 2019



The Face Behind The Veil. Titan is a little larger than Mercury--the smallest major planet inhabiting our Solar System. Indeed, Titan would have been classified as a major planet in its own right if it orbited our Sun instead of Saturn. The Huygens Probe images lifted the veil from the face of this distant moon-world, revealing a youthful surface that is both smooth and relatively free of impact craters. Huygens also found that this icy, hydrocarbon-saturated moon's climate includes those heavy rains of gasoline, as well as raging, roaring winds. Some of Titan's surface features were found to be hauntingly akin to certain surface features on Earth. 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. Enceladus: Enceladus has shown geysers of water that were confirmed by the Cassini spacecraft in 2005. Gravimetric data obtained from 2010 to 2011 confirmed the existence of a subsurface ocean. Even though originally it was thought to be localized, most likely in a region of the icy moon's southern hemisphere, evidence collected in 2015 indicates the subsurface ocean is actually global. Furthermore, in additon to water, these geysers from vents located near the south pole of Enceladus contain tiny quantities of salt, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and volatile hydrocarbons. Tidal flux from Saturn is apparently responsible for the melting of the ocean water, as well as the geysers.