Titan-ic Awe

The latest flyby of Titan by Cassini occurred on March 31, 2005. NASA has not yet released processed images and scientific feedback, but the raw images have been available for a couple days now. When looking at these raw images of Titan, there is something profoundly strange yet incredibly familiar about them. The only reasonable response is awe. What are the images showing us? The image to the left reveals more detail of a large black shape with sharp boundaries. Is it a sea of methane made dark by hydrocarbon sediments? Is it a huge expanse of methane, hydrocarbon, and water ice mud? Why does it look so familiar?

You do not need to be a scientist to understand that there is something very interesting happening on Titan. Recent attendance by the public at lectures about data returned by the Cassini-Huygens space probes indicates the extent of this interest. Surprisingly enough, planetary scientists do not seem to be any better equipped than the layperson to explain what is going on.

Cassini will make an even closer flyby of Titan on April 16, 2005 before orbital mechanics result in a four month gap between flybys.

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Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a fiction writer and poet, with his first published poem forthcoming later in 2017 from Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey. Richard is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team at the University of Arizona. He monitors images of the Martian surface taken by the HiRISE camera located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars and helps ensure they process successfully and are validated for quick release to the science community and public. Once upon a time, Richard wrote and edited the science and technology news and commentary website Frontier Channel, hosted the RADIO Frontier Channel podcast, and organized transhumanist clubs. Follow Richard on his website (richardleis.com), on Goodreads (richardleis), his Micro.blog (@richardleis), Twitter (@richardleisjr), and Facebook (richardleisjr).