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Titan in Natural Colour.

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Titan Colour.
Titan in Natural Colour.

Today is the day that Cassini is scheduled to make its arrival at Saturn, flying close to the planet and threading between two of its ring systems. Controllers have released this natural colour image of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. The Moon is surrounded by a thick atmosphere rich in organic molecules, which give it this featureless orange glow. Cassini will get a much better view soon, though, as it will make its first close flyby in just a few days. It will release the Huygens probe in early 2005 which will actually land on its surface and give scientists a better idea of what's beneath those thick clouds.

Despite the views of Titan’s surface that Cassini is able to provide, the Moon remains inscrutable to the human eye. In true color images that are taken in the visible wavelengths, Titan’s photochemical smog, rich in organic material, gives the Moon a smooth featureless orange glow.

The Cassini orbiter carries specially-designed spectral filters that can pierce Titan’s veil. Its piggybacked Huygens probe will descend through the atmosphere in early 2005, giving an up-close-and-personal look at this mysterious orange moon.

Images taken with the narrow angle camera using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this color view. The images were obtained at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 67 degrees and from a distance of approximately 13.1 million kilometers (8.2 million miles) on June 10, 2004. Image scale is approximately 79 kilometers (49 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and the Cassini imaging team home page, http://ciclops.org.

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