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Barnstorming Titan

When the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft flew by Saturn in 1980 and 1981, they were able to pay only fleeting attention to Titan, the second largest moon in the solar system (larger even than the planet Mercury) and the only solar system moon with an appreciable atmosphere. Titan’s atmosphere has long intrigued scientists, who speculated that it created conditions sufficient to support lakes of liquid methane on Titan’s surface. Ten years ago this week, the Cassini spacecraft, orbiting Saturn, made the first of what would be dozens of flybys of Titan, some bringing the spacecraft and its cloud-penetrating radar to within 880 km (547 mi) of the moon and confirming the presence of lakes of liquid hydrocarbons on the surface. These images are from subsequent Titan flybys in 2005 and 2006.

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