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Space
2023-11-14 10:00:08

A sea of methane, sand dunes and clouds: the James Webb was able to peer beneath Titans haze

Море метана, песчаные дюны и облака: «Джеймс Уэбб» смог «заглянуть» под дымку Титана

The tasks of the James Webb Space Telescope are not limited to the study of the oldest galaxies and stars - it regularly turns its "eye" and objects in the solar system. Another object of study was Saturn's satellite Titan. Its dense atmosphere is impermeable to visible light, but in the infrared range is partially transparent. Instruments "Webb" captured several details that previously either only assumed, or managed to see only the probe "Cassini", studying the Saturn system.

Among all known bodies of the solar system, only Earth and Titan can boast full-fledged manifestations of hydrosphere on the surface - seas, rivers and lakes. Only our planet is rich in water, but on Saturn's satellite its role is performed by liquefied hydrocarbons: methane and ethane. Moreover, among all the satellites of the planets, only Titan has a dense atmosphere. Its study will answer many fundamental questions related to the appearance of gas shells in rocky celestial bodies.

The start of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been eagerly awaited by scientists from around the world. It provides an opportunity to study not only exoplanets, but also objects of the solar system in the infrared range in the unprecedented resolution. Thus, previously, details of the surface and atmospheric phenomena on Titan could only be captured by a probe that was in close proximity to Saturn's satellite.

The first images of Titan in the range of infrared radiation, allowing to "look" through the haze of its atmosphere arrived on November 5. Their processing and study is far from complete, but already allow us to judge the presence of phenomena on this celestial body, which had previously been observed only on Earth. To test the hypothesis that the observed areas on the disk of Titan are clouds, scientists requested extraordinary time on the telescope of the Keck Observatory. The ground-based instrument conducted observations at the same time as the JWST optics resurveyed Saturn's satellite and confirmed the hypotheses.

In a related press release, the team of scientists who studied the data notes that their work has not yet been formalized into a scientific article and has not been peer-reviewed. It is still only a preliminary report. But an incredibly promising one at that. Further analysis of the images should lift the veil of mystery over the history of Titan's atmosphere. For example, an important question - has it always had one? Perhaps, a dense gas shell appeared relatively recently. And for a long time after its formation, Titan was a rocky body with an ice cover, like other large satellites of giant planets.



космос
ДжеймсУэбб
титан
Cassini




Encyclopaedic reference
Космос - относительно пустые участки Вселенной, которые лежат вне границ атмосфер небесных тел.
Титан - крупнейший спутник Сатурна, второй по величине спутник в Солнечной системе (после спутника Юпитера Ганимеда), является единственным, кроме Земли, телом в Солнечной системе, для которого доказано стабильное существование жидкости на поверхности, и единственным спутником планеты, обладающим плотной атмосферой.
Cassini - автоматическая межпланетная станция (АМС), созданная совместно НАСА, Европейским космическим агентством и Итальянским космическим агентством для исследования планеты Сатурн, его колец и спутников. Комплекс состоял из орбитальной станции «Кассини» и спускаемого аппарата с автоматической станцией «Гюйгенс», предназначенной для посадки на Титан.

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