Sunlight glints off Saturn moon's seas in dazzling NASA image

Saturn's captivating moon Titan once again draws the eye as NASA releases a color mosaic showing the sun shining on its polar seas.

Titan seas
Titan is a strange and wonderful place. NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho

Cassini has seen some things, man. NASA's intrepid spacecraft left to investigate Saturn way back in 1997 and it's still surprising us back here on Earth with fascinating images. The latest to wow humans is a color mosaic showing sunlight shining off the moon's hydrocarbon seas near the north pole. The image was captured in near-infrared light and the result is a greenish Titan with glowing highlights where the seas are located.

Cassini has captured the polar seas before. It's also nabbed some vague views of the sun glinting off them, but this new mosaic is the first time they've been caught together in the same view, and it's breathtaking. The official term for what's happening in the image is a "sunglint."

There's more going on here than just a pretty picture. The image also shows bright methane clouds near the north pole. NASA notes that the clouds could be actively refilling the lakes with rainfall, so be sure to take an umbrella if you ever join a manned mission to Titan. Kraken Mare, the sea showing the sunglint, has what NASA describes as a "bathtub ring" around it. This indicates the process of evaporation has caused the sea to get smaller over time.

Titan's seas are primarily composed of liquid methane and ethane, not exactly the sort of place you would want to go for a beach vacation.

The moon has been a source of extra fascination recently thanks to a strange phenomenon where a and reappearing on the surface. There have been proposals to send more advanced missions to Titan, which may help answer many of the questions scientists have about what exactly is happening on the heavenly body. In the meantime, we'll have to make due with images and data sent back by the ever-helpful Cassini.