TECH

Cassini Images: Probe Relays Staggering Photo Of Titan's Atmosphere

The craft has made its last close flyby of Saturn's moon.

10/05/2017 16:50 BST | Updated 11/05/2017 09:10 BST

Cassini has returned a striking photo of bright, feathery methane clouds drifting across Saturn’s moon Titan.

The image was captured as the probe made its final close flyby of the moon in an attempt to observe its lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

In addition to Enceladus, another of Saturn’s moons, Titan is one of NASA’s prime candidates for finding life in our solar system.

If it does host life, it’s likely to use liquid hydrocarbon like methane as a solvent and would look very different to any organisms on Earth.

But however primitive, life on Titan would demonstrate a second genesis, indicating it can develop in many conditions across the cosmos.

NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SSI
A photo of Saturn's atmosphere captured by Cassini.

Cassini has now completed its second death-defying dive in between Saturn and its rings. Its 12-year journey is due to come to an end in September after it completes its final dive.

NASA scientists are set upon ditching the craft in Saturn’s atmosphere before it runs out of fuel, ensuring it won’t crash into one of the planet’s 53 moons.

If Enceladus and Titan do harbour life, a satellite from Earth would pose a major contamination risk.