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Saturn and Enceladus, Dione, Tethys and Rhea as seen from atop Titan's hydrocarbon haze; organonitrogen haze; anti-greenhouse effect; gas giant; jovian planet; planetary rings; ring system; oblate spheroid - Space Art Illustration

Saturn from atop Titan's hydrocarbon haze

Saturn and its rings would be a majestic sight lording over Titan's hydrocarbon haze. The viewpoint is from 50 miles above Titan's surface and three-quarters of a million miles away from Saturn itself. Four of Saturn's smaller satellites can also be seen along the ring plane: left to right are Enceladus, Dione, Tethys and Rhea.

Technically, the orange clouds mark the beginning of Titan's condensate haze, which consists of ethane, methane, nitrogen, and a variety of hydrocarbons known collectively as tholin. These gases and hydrocarbons extend upward another 250 miles, resulting in a bluish, earthlike sky, albeit darker due to Titan's great distance from the Sun. Tholin is created by the interaction of the nitrogen-rich gases with ultraviolet light from the Sun and ultimately precipitates all the way down to Titan's surface. Notwithstanding its flame-like colors, this haze is chilled to minus 330º F.


Special thanks to Björn Jónsson for his Saturn clouds map and rings data.

Copyright © Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.

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