CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Land of Lakes?
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Land of Lakes?
PIA 06240

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  This view of Titanís south pole reveals the intriguing dark feature named Ontario Lacus and a host of smaller features dotting the south polar region.

The true nature of this feature, seen here at left of center, is not yet known with absolute certainty. However, the featureís darkness, the shore-like smoothness of its perimeter and its presence in an area where frequent convective storm clouds have been observed by Cassini and Earth-based astronomers made it the best candidate for an open body of liquid on Titan when this image was taken in June 2005.

This interpretation has been strengthened by the sighting of features having similar morphologies in Titanís northern polar region during the flyby of Titan that occurred in late February (see PIA08365). The possibility that these northern features, the sizes of small seas, are either completely or partially filled with liquid hydrocarbons is significantly strengthened by Cassini radar data that overlap portions of the ISS-observed northern bodies (see PIA09182).

Previously, scientists had speculated that Ontario Lacus might simply be a broad depression filled by dark, solid hydrocarbons falling from the atmosphere onto Titanís surface. In this case, the smoothed outline might be the result of a process unrelated to rainfall, such as a sinkhole or a volcanic caldera. However, the strong likelihood that the northern polar features are lakes and seas has made imaging scientists more confident that Ontario Lacus, and the smaller dark features dotting the southern polar region of Titan, also hold liquid. If correct, this new revelation would mean that each pole on Titan is a large wetlands area.

The feature is named for Lake Ontario because the two are similar in absolute surface area.

A red cross below center in the scene marks the pole. The brightest features seen here are methane clouds. A movie sequence showing the evolution of bright clouds in the region during the same flyby is also available (see PIA06241).

This view is a composite of three narrow angle camera images, taken over several minutes during Cassini's distant June 6, 2005 flyby. The images were combined to produce a sharper view of Titanís surface. The images were taken using a combination of spectral filters sensitive to wavelengths of polarized infrared light. The images were acquired from approximately 450,000 kilometers (279,000 miles) from Titan. Resolution in the scene is approximately 3 kilometers (2 miles) per pixel. The view has been contrast enhanced to improve the overall visibility of surface features.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and the Cassini imaging team home page, http://ciclops.org.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Released: June 28, 2005, March 15, 2007 (PIA 06240)
Image/Caption Information


Alliance Member Comments
Red_dragon (Mar 29, 2007 at 8:49 AM):
Yes,I know that.I'm refering to this one (if you let me post a link to Cassini's web site):http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/image-details.cfm?imageID=1731
carolyn (CICLOPS) (Mar 29, 2007 at 8:09 AM):
It is not a RADAR image that shows a possible shoreline near Titan's south pole, but an ISS image that goes back to June 2005. That was the first detection of anything lake-like on Titan, though the evidence was only morphological and that feature's association with clouds and possible precipitation/evaporation.
Red_dragon (Mar 29, 2007 at 7:37 AM):
It's a pity half of the data taken during the T7 flyby, which was to study that region had been lost. Let's hope that there will be more luck during the flyby that Cassini will conduct at the end of this year and we can see what lies there.
I'm still intriged by that RADAR image that shows a possible shoreline near Titan's south pole.

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