As alien a world as Saturn's moon Titan is, it turns out to be very Earth-like. It has rain, lakes, and weather that shapes the moon's surface as those same processes shape Earth's. The main differences are that Titan is much, much colder and, instead of water, the rain and lakes are made of liquid methane and other hydrocarbons.
Although researchers have known about these features for a while, a new, animated mosaic from the University of Nantes in France shows nearly the full surface of the moon, including lakes and vast dune fields, for the first time in color, according to Discover Magazine blogger and astronomer Phil Plait.
Because Titan is enveloped in a thick haze impenetrable by normal light, researchers used an infrared camera, which can peer through the clouds, aboard the Cassini spacecraft during 78 flybys during the past seven years.
Cassini, which released in 2005 a probe to send back the first photos from Titan's surface, is expected to make another 48 flybys of the moon to fill in details of the surface missing in the animation.
Below are other photos from Cassini and its Titan probe during its seven years of orbiting Saturn:
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