Two Sides of Dunes

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Two different views of a field of dunes on Titan

This pair of images, taken by the Cassini spacecraft radar mapper on two different Titan passes on Dec. 11, 2006 (T21 left), and Oct. 29, 2005 (T8 right), represent two different views of a field of dunes located near 9.4 degrees south latitude by 290 degrees west longitude.

The images were taken in synthetic aperture mode and have a resolution of approximately 500 meters (1,640 feet). North is toward the top of both images, and each image is approximately 400 kilometers (250 miles) long by 275 kilometers (170 miles) wide. The images are different only because the radar instrument illuminated the dunes from different directions. Acting somewhat like a flash camera, the radar sends out microwave pulses and makes an image from the pulses after they are reflected back. Imagine that both the "camera" and the "flash" come from the left in the left image and from the top in the right image.

Most obvious differences are seen in the large bright feature at the center of both images. At left, its left edge is brighter, emphasizing the more steep slopes there. Farther left, the dunes are more clearly defined in the right image as their faces are caught by the illumination. However, since the dunes are visible in both images, it is likely that the materials making up the dark and light stripes are also somehow different. More detailed studies of how materials on Titan reflect and scatter at different angles are giving us clues about what different materials might be present in this cold and distant world.

For more information about dunes on Titan, see Dunes Galore.

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 mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The radar instrument was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency, working with team members from the United States and several European countries.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit

Credit: NASA/JPL