Seeing Titan

Shrouded in a thick atmosphere, Saturn’s largest moon Titan really is hard to see. Small particles suspended in the upper atmosphere cause an almost impenetrable haze, strongly scattering light at visible wavelengths and hiding Titan’s surface features from prying eyes. But Titan’s surface is better imaged at infrared wavelengths where scattering is weaker and atmospheric absorption is reduced. Arrayed around this visible light image (center) of Titan are some of the clearest global infrared views of the tantalizing moon so far. In false color, the six panels present a consistent processing of 13 years of infrared image data from the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) on board the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn from 2004 to 2017. They offer a stunning comparison with Cassini’s visible light view. NASA’s revolutionary rotorcraft mission to Titan is due to launch in 2027. via NASA

NGC 4372 and the Dark Doodad

The delightful Dark Doodad Nebula drifts through southern skies, a tantalizing target for binoculars toward the small constellation Musca, The Fly. The dusty cosmic cloud is seen against rich starfields just south of the Coalsack Nebula and the Southern Cross. Stretching for about 3 degrees across the center of this telephoto field of view, the Dark Doodad is punctuated near its southern tip (upper right) by yellowish globular star cluster NGC 4372. Of course NGC 4372 roams the halo of our Milky Way Galaxy, a background object some 20,000 light-years away and only by chance along our line-of-sight to the Dark Doodad. The Dark Doodad’s well defined silhouette belongs to the Musca molecular cloud, but its better known alliterative moniker was first coined by astro-imager and writer Dennis di Cicco in 1986 while observing Comet Halley from the Australian outback. The Dark Doodad is around 700 light-years distant and over 30 light-years long. via NASA