Cassini's Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) has been observing Titan since April 2004, compiling a nearly global surface map and monitoring the surface and atmosphere for activity. Early images of the south-polar region revealed numerous dark surface features and contemporaneous convective cloud systems, suggesting the presence of hydrocarbon lakes similar to those later detected at Titan's North Pole. Intriguingly, repeated south-polar imaging by ISS revealed differences consistent with ponding of hydrocarbon liquids on the surface due to precipitation from a large storm. More recent ISS images of high northern latitudes illustrate the full extents (>500,000 km2) of hydrocarbon seas, sections of which have been observed by Cassini's RADAR. These observations demonstrate dynamic processes at work on Titan and that the poles harbor liquid-hydrocarbon reservoirs, the extents of which differ from pole to pole and which may be coupled to seasonally varying circulation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)