Spacecraft From NASA



At last, on July 1, 2004, the Cassini spacecraft fired off its breaking rocket, glided into orbit around Saturn, and started taking pictures that left scientists in awe. It wasn't as if they hadn't been prepared for such wonders. The weeks leading up to Cassini's arrival at Saturn had served to intensify their already heated anticipation. It seemed as if each approach-picture taken was more enticing than the one preceding it. Titan's atmosphere is approximately 95% nitrogen. However, in a way that dramatically differs from Earth's own mostly-nitrogen atmosphere, Titan's atmosphere has very little oxygen. Indeed, the remainder of Titan's atmosphere is almost entirely composed of methane--along with small qunatities of other gases, such as ethane. At the extremely cold temperatures that are found at Saturn's great distance from the heat of our Star, Titan's methane and ethane can accumulate on its icy surface to form pools of liquid. "The rectangular pattern of gravity anomalies was completely unexpected. Using the gradients in the gravity data to reveal the rectangular pattern of anomalies, we can now clearly and completely see structures that were only hinted at by surface observations," Dr. Jeffrey Andrews-Hanna explained in the October 1, 2014 NASA Press Release. Dr. Andrews-Hanna, a GRAIL co-investigator at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, is lead author of the paper.