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Titan Transits the Crab Nebula
Credit: NASA/CXC/Penn State/K.Mori et al.


Transit of Titan

On January 5, 2003 astronomers caught a rare event. On that day Titan, Saturn's largest moon and the only moon in our solar system with a thick atmosphere, passed in front of the Crab Nebula. This gave astronomers the chance to use the Crab's X-ray emission to obtain an X-ray of the Titan's atmosphere. This event was captured by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The image above shows the path of Titan across an X-ray image of the Crab, while the inset shows the shadow of Titan silhouetted against the bright emission of the Crab. These observations showed that Titan's atmosphere is slightly larger than the last time it was measured, by the Voyager I spacecraft. This might mean that Titan's atmosphere expands due to heating as Saturn moves closer to the Sun.


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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!


Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:26:05 EDT