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Great shot: NASA sees sunlight glinting off Titan's ocean

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Sunday, November 2, 2014, 12:53 PM - The distant, frigid moons of our solar system's gas giants are usually seen - rightly - as forbidding and inhospitable.

So the shot above, of sunlight glinting off of one of the seas of Titan, a satellite of Saturn, is at once inviting and surprising.

Released last week by NASA's Joint Propulsion Laboratory, the shot was taken on August 21 in the infrared spectrum, by the orbiting Cassini probe, which has been monitoring Saturn's moon since 2004. The square-looking effects in the shot are due to the fact that the image is a composite.

"In the past, Cassini had captured, separately, views of the polar seas and the sun glinting off them but this is the first time both have been seen together in the same view," a statement from JPL reads.

But if the sunlight dancing off the waves of Titan's Kraken Mare (the official name of that particular sea) puts you in mind of tropical climes, keep in mind the moon is a bit on the hellish side.

Although it has a dense atmosphere that often appears hazy to the eye, the average temperature at the surface is around -179oC, according to NASA. And those seas aren't frozen solid because they aren't made of water, but methane and ethane.

The incredibly low temperatures allow those elements to exist in liquid form, rather than as the gases they normally are on Earth. They rain down on the surface, eroding the landscape and pooling the the large lakes found near the moon's north pole.

So, not a tropical paradise, then. Still pretty, though.

NEW MOON? Saturn already has dozens of moons, but Cassini may have spotted the birth of a new one. Watch the video below to see it.

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