Titan is the only satellite in our Solar System with a dense atmosphere. The surface pressure is 1.5 bar (ref. 1) and, similar to the Earth, N 2 is the main component of the atmosphere. Methane is the second most important component, but it is photodissociated on a timescale of 10 years (ref. 3). This short timescale has led to the suggestion that Titan may possess a surface or subsurface reservoir of hydrocarbons to replenish the atmosphere. Here we report near-infrared images of Titan obtained on 26 October 2004 by the Cassini spacecraft. The images show that a widespread methane ocean does not exist; subtle albedo variations instead suggest topographical variations, as would be expected for a more solid (perhaps icy) surface. We also find a circular structure ∼30 km in diameter that does not resemble any features seen on other icy satellites. We propose that the structure is a dome formed by upwelling icy plumes that release methane into Titan's atmosphere.
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