Cassini scientists had been looking for the glint, also known as a specular reflection, since the spacecraft began orbiting Saturn in 2004. But until recently Titan's northern hemisphere, where most of the lakes are located, had been veiled in winter darkness. Now, however, the seasons are changing and sunlight has returned to the north, allowing Cassini to capture this serendipitous image:
Titan, Saturn's largest moon, has captivated scientists because of its many similarities to Earth. Scientists have theorized for 20 years that Titan's cold surface hosts seas or lakes of liquid hydrocarbons, making it the only other planetary body besides Earth believed to have liquid on its surface. While data from Cassini have not indicated any vast seas, they have revealed what appeared to be large lakes near Titan's north and south poles.
"These results remind us how unique Titan is in the solar system," says Ralf Jaumann, who leads the scientists at the DLR who work on Cassini. "They also show us that liquid has a universal power to shape geological surfaces in the same way, no matter what the liquid is."