A Fond Farewell To A Misty Moon

With its gossamer rings sparkling with a mesmerizing frozen sea of icy moonlets and twirling icy fragments and particles, the gas-giant Saturn is arguably the most beautiful planet in our Solar System. This second-largest planet in our Sun’s family, orbiting our Star about ten times farther than Earth, Saturn is so light that it could float on water–providing that a basin could be found that is large enough to contain it. A denizen of the cold outer region of our Solar System, this sixth planet from our Sun is also the proud parent-planet of a very special misty moisty moon-world, the hydrocarbon tormented, smoggy orange shrouded moon dubbed Titan. Titan is the largest moon in the Saturn system, as well as the second-largest moon inhabiting our entire Solar System, after Ganymede of Jupiter. In August 2017, only weeks away from its dramatic, mission-ending fatal dive down into the clouds of the ringed-planet, that it has been circling since 2004, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is waiting to make one last distant encounter with Titan before it meets its fate in the clouds of Saturn.

The Cassini spacecraft is being kept busy during its last days, circling Saturn every week as part of its final mission–appropriately named its Grand Finale. On a few of its previous orbits, Titan has been close enough to influence Cassini’s orbit, causing the spacecraft to approach Saturn a tiny bit closer or a tiny bit farther away. A handful of those distant passes even nudged Cassini into the outer limits of Saturn’s famous, magnificent system of rings.

Cassini will visit Titan one last time before it comes to the end of the road on September 11, 2017. The spacecraft will continue dispatching precious scientific information back to astronomers until it finally loses contact with Earth.

Numerous flybys of Titan were planned from the mission’s beginning as a way to explore the bewitching and mysterious moon-world, swathed as it is in a heavy, impenetrable blanket of orange hydrocarbon smog. Torn and tormented by alien rivers and seas of ethane, methane, and propane, and pummeled by lazy, large drops of hydrocarbon rain, Titan is both eerie and mystifying as it orbits its beautiful ringed parent-planet in the distant, cold kingdom of the outer giant planets of our Sun’s family–Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Because of Titan’s veil of heavy smog, the geological features of its surface were well-hidden from the prying eyes of curious astronomers until the Cassini/Huygens orbiter and lander at last arrived there–and started to lift the veil from the hidden face of this magical moon-world.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a collaborative NASA/European Space Agency/Italian Space Agency robotic spacecraft that was initially constructed to be composed of two components: One is the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Huygens Probe, named for the Dutch mathematician and astronomer Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695), who discovered Titan, and who also studied Saturn’s system of rings. The second component, the NASA-designed Cassini Orbiter, was named for the Italian-French astronomer Giovanni Dominico Cassini (1625-1712) who discovered four of Saturn’s other many, many moons. After a long, treacherous journey through interplanetary space, that carried it from Earth to Saturn, Cassini-Huygens at last reached Saturn on July 1, 2004. On December 25, 2004, the Huygens Probe was deliberately liberated from the Cassini Orbiter, and began its descent down to the mysterious surface of the heavily shrouded, distant moon-world–sending back to Earth an abundance of information about Titan. At last, Titan’s hidden face was unveiled–revealing its well-kept secrets.

The new Huygens Probe images of Titan show a smooth, young surface, pockmarked by relatively few impact craters. This frigid moon-world’s climate includes ferocious, rushing winds, as well as alien downpours of heavy hydrocarbon rain. Both the wind and rain carve out surface features that bear a haunting resemblance to some of the surface features of our own planet, such as sand dunes, rivers, lakes, seas, and deltas. Indeed, the planetary scientists studying the images now propose that Titan may be similar to the way Earth was before life had emerged and evolved out of non-living substances.

Titan orbits its gas-giant parent-planet once every 15 days and 22 hours. In a way that is similar to Earth’s own large Moon, and a number of other moons circling the quartet of giant planets in our Solar System’s outer limits, its rotation period is exactly the same as its orbital period. This basically means that Titan is tidally locked in synchronous rotation with Saturn–always showing only one face to its planet.

Titan has three large seas filled with liquid hydrocarbons that are all situated close to its north pole, and they are all surrounded by many smaller hydrocarbon lakes in the northern hemisphere. Only one lone lake has been seen in Titan’s southern hemisphere.

The precise composition of these lakes and seas was unknown until 2014, when the radar instrument aboard Cassini was the first to show that Ligeia Mare–the second largest of Titan’s seas–is heavily laden with methane. Ligeia Mare is approximately the same size as two of the Great Lakes on Earth combined–Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The seabed of Ligeia Mare is thought to be covered by a sludge layer of organic-rich compounds.

The methane and nitrogen that exist in Titan’s atmosphere react together to form a variety of organic materials. Many scientists think that the heaviest materials float down to the surface of the moon-world. When these compounds enter the sea, whether by directly tumbling down from the air as hydrocarbon rain, or by way of Titan’s rivers, some are dissolved in the liquid methane. The compounds that fail to dissolve, such as nitrites and benzene, sink down into the floor of this alien sea.

Both Earth and Titan sport atmospheres that are dominated by nitrogen–more than 95% nitrogen in Titan’s case. However, unlike Earth, Titan’s atmosphere contains very little oxygen. Indeed, the remainder of Titan’s atmosphere primarily contains methane, along with traces of other gases–such as ethane. At the truly cold temperatures that characterize Saturn’s great distant from our fiery, searing-hot, glaring Star, Titan’s methane and ethane can exist on the surface in their liquid phase.

For this reason, for years, astronomers contemplated the possibility that hydrocarbon lakes and seas might exist on the surface of this misty moisty moon. The data derived from the Cassini/Huygens mission lived up to their expectations. Since its arrival at the Saturn-system, the Cassini spacecraft has unveiled over 620,000 square miles of Titan’s bewitching, well-hidden surface–and it has shown that almost two percent of Titan’s entire surface is covered with liquid.

Lifting Titan’s Mysterious Orange Veil

Titan is just a little bit larger than the planet Mercury–the smallest major planet inhabiting our Sun’s family. Planetary scientists were eager to explore this planet-size moon-world ever since NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft whizzed by it back in 1980. Alas, Voyager 1 was not able to pierce through the heavy golden fog that blankets Titan’s secretive surface.

Because Titan possesses a strong gravitational pull–as a result of its large size– mission scientists were able to take advantage of the situation by using Titan’s gravity to bend Cassini’s course as it circled Saturn. Indeed, a single close flyby of Titan provided more of a change in velocity than the entire 90-minute engine burn necessary to slow it down so it could be snared by Saturn’s powerful gravity upon its arrival.

Cassini/Huygens’ four engineers, who were given the task of plotting the spacecraft’s course years in advance, were able to use Titan as their “linchpin”. Numerous passes by the misty moon provided the equivalent of enormous quantities of rocket propellant. By using Titan’s gravity, the fortunate engineers were able to stretch Cassini’s orbit out farther from Saturn–for example, to dispatch the spacecraft toward Saturn’s mid-size, icy moon, Iapetus. Using this technique, the engineers made good use of Titan flybys to alter the orientation of Cassini’s orbit during the course of the mission–for example, when they lifted the spacecraft from the plane of the rings in order to observe them from high above, along with high southern and northern latitudes on Saturn and its many moons.

A Fond Farewell To A Misty Moon

The Cassini spacecraft has made 127 close flybys of Titan over the course of its 13-year mission at the Saturn system–along with many more distant observations of this misty moon-world. When Cassini deliberately dropped the ESA’s Huygens Probe, it floated down through Titan’s dense atmosphere to finally land on its strange surface in January 2005.

The Cassini mission has proven to be highly successful. Among Cassini’s many important discoveries, it revealed that there were indeed bodies of open liquid hydrocarbons pooling on Titan’s surface–just as many planetary scientists had suspected for years. However, it was surprising that Titan’s lakes and seas are primarily located at its poles, with almost all of the liquid existing at northern latitudes–at least, this true, for the current era. Cassini also revealed that most of Titan is devoid of lakes, and that there are vast regions of linear dunes existing closer to the equator that are similar to those observed on Earth–in places such as Namibia. The plucky spacecraft peered at giant hydrocarbon clouds looming over Titan’s poles–as well as feathery bright clouds that floated across the landscape, dropping a heavy rain of gasoline that darkened this hydrocarbon tormented moon’s strange surface. There were also some tantalizing hints that an ocean of life-loving liquid water might slosh around beneath Titan’s icy surface crust.

At first, the images that Cassini returned to scientists on Earth were spotty. However, each new encounter contributed to the earlier ones. Over the course of the entire mission, Cassini’s radar managed to image approximately 67% of Titan’s surface, using the spacecraft’s saucer-shaped, large antenna to bounce signals off the orange-shrouded moon’s strange and intriguing surface. Images derived from Cassini’s infrared spectrometer, radar, and imaging cameras, gradually added more and more previously unknown details, building up an increasingly more complete, high-resolution picture of Titan.

“Now that we’ve completed Cassini’s investigation of Titan, we have enough detail to really see what Titan is like as a world, globally,” commented Dr. Steve Wall in an August 11, 2017 NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Press Release. Dr. Wall is deputy lead of Cassini’s radar team at the JPL, which is located in Pasadena, California.

Planetary scientists now have acquired enough information to understand the distribution of Titan’s surface features (such as seas, dunes, and mountains) as well as the behavior of its atmosphere over time. The scientists also are now able to begin pieceing together how surface liquids might migrate from pole to pole.

However, uncertainties remain. One question, that still remains unanswered, is how the methane in Titan’s atmosphere is being replenished, since it is constantly being broken down over time by sunlight. Planetary scientists have also observed evidence of volcanism, with methane-laden water serving as that strange moon’s “lava”–but a definitive detection has not been achieved.

Cassini’s observations could still provide more enticing clues. Planetary scientists have been watching for summer rain clouds to form at the north pole, as their models have predicted. Cassini detected rain clouds at the south pole, during Titan’s southern summer, back in 2004. However, clouds at high northern latitudes have been few in number.

“The atmosphere seems to have more inertia than most models have assumed. Basically, it takes longer than we thought for the weather to change with seasons,” commented Dr. Elizabeth Tuttle in the August 11, 2017 JPL Press Release. Dr. Tuttle is a Cassini imaging team associate at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, in Laurel, Maryland.

The slow formation of northern summer clouds might make a better match with models that predict a global reservoir of methane, Dr. Tuttle continued to explain. “There isn’t a global reservoir at the surface, so if one exists in the subsurface that would be a major revelation about Titan,”she added. This shows how valuable Cassini’s long-term monitoring of Titan’s atmosphere has been, because the monitoring is providing data that can be used to test models and theories.

Cassini’s Grand Finale

The Cassini spacecraft made its final close flyby of Titan on April 22, 2017. This last close encounter with the misty moon-world provided the spacecraft with a much needed nudge over Saturn’s rings. The push also helped Cassini begin its final series of orbits, enabling it to soar between the rings and Saturn.

During that flyby, Cassini’s radar played a starring role–its observation requirements determining how the spacecraft would be oriented as it flew low over the surface one last time at an altitude of 606 miles. One of the mission’s top priorities was to have one final peek at Titan’s so-called “magic islands”. These “magical” surface features first appeared and then vanished in separate observations taken years apart. On the last flyby there were no magic islands to be seen. Cassini’s radar team is still trying to solve the mystery of Titan’s “magic islands”–trying to understand what the features might have been. The leading candidate explanations are either bubbles or waves.

Of greatest interest to the radar team was a set of observations in which the instrument was used to explore the mysterious, hidden depths of several of the small hydrocarbon lakes that mark Titan’s north polar region. In the future, the scientists will be working to tease out important information gathered from these alien lakes in order to determine their composition, in terms of methane versus ethane.

As Cassini made its last close flyby with the misty moisty orange moon, before its Grand Finale, the Cassini radar team imaged a long swath of Titan’s once-veiled surface, revealing terrain observed on the very first Titan flyby in 2004.

“It’s pretty remarkable that we ended up close to where we started. The difference is how richly our understanding has grown, and how the questions we’re asking about Titan have evolved,” Dr. Wall noted.

Do Your Students Look Up to You?

When you are actively complex in the classroom and alive with your developed students, classroom administration and what you charge to advise are the adjustment of the day. As the chic progresses, you may accede the angle of your students; forth with what motivates them, how they abide if faced with challenges, and what it is like for them to collaborate with the classroom environment. But accept you anytime advised how your acceptance appearance you as an educator? Does it amount to you or access how you advise if you are planning your chic or because approaching able development?

Most educators accept this blazon of plan or career, even if the pay or alive altitude are beneath than ideal. What if you adjudge to action from this point advanced in a abode that is transformative for your students, so that they are somehow bigger for accepting been enrolled in your classes? In added words, what if you could advise in a way that will accept a abiding appulse on your students? If you do access them in this abode now or adjudge that you wish to change how you teach, they will acceptable attending up to you. This agency they will bethink you and your class, and added importantly, they will be adapted in some way, whether academically, professionally, or personally.

A Catechism for Educators

As an educator, accede this question: is activity in a transformative abode a amount of authoritative alertness choices in how you act while you are teaching, or is it a aftereffect of every alternation you accept with your students? Not every apprentice is traveling to accept a absolute acquaintance while they collaborate with you, admitting the best of intentions you may accept set, yet if acceptance apperceive their advisers affliction they are added accommodating to put in the time and accomplish an accomplishment to try if it comes to getting complex in the acquirements process. That added accomplishment on their allotment is sometimes all a apprentice needs to get accomplished abeyant barriers or hurdles.

My acquaintance as an drillmaster has accomplished me that I consistently apperceive area I angle with my acceptance by the way they are responding to me, whether in chic or through some anatomy of advice such as email. Added importantly, I apperceive I accept fabricated a abiding appulse if I accept unsolicited emails from acceptance and they allotment appropriate moments from class, acquaint learned, challenges they accept overcome, lightbulb or “aha” moments, or advance they accept experienced; even afterwards chic has concluded, as abounding do not apprehend the appulse of what they accept abstruse until some time later.

What Does It Beggarly for Acceptance to Attending Up to You?

When acceptance accept a absolute acquaintance and attending up to an instructor, what do they “see” in some manner? They usually “see” anyone who cares about their acceptance and that does not beggarly they will angle the rules or accord abroad grades. They can empathize with their acceptance and listen. Acceptance are aswell aggressive by this instructor, as this adviser usually provides ideas, suggestions, and tips that are alone in attributes and meant to abode specific adorning needs. Added importantly, this adviser makes time to action abetment and demonstrates their assurance and attendance in class.

When acceptance attending up to an instructor, they aswell accept a activity response. They will usually feel account for this instructor, forth with assurance and appreciation. There is a adroitness of accepting a alive accord with this instructor, which is arduous if an adviser is beheld as an ascendancy amount in acceptable classes or not visibly present in online classes. What I accept abstruse all-embracing about acceptance who advance absolute animosity is that it does not depend aloft the chic conditions, which I may or may not be able to absolutely control. The primary agency is the amazing accomplish an adviser takes to affect their acceptance aural the best, and even the worst, of circumstances.

Does It Amount to You?

It is simple to see why teaching in a transformative abode would amount abundantly for students. Yet I apperceive from my own experience, and accepting formed with hundreds of online adroitness as a drillmaster and trainer, that this access to teaching requires an investment of time and energy. The catechism I apperceive some educators would accession is this: yes, it affairs for students, but what amount does the adviser accept from activity in this manner? The acknowledgment is that a transformative access to teaching transforms both the drillmaster and student. It is about the accomplishment of your mission as an educator, traveling above the action of what you do and even added than alive the accountable of what you teach; it is about the affiliation you establish, cultivate, and breeding during the time you accept with your acceptance – whether it is a few weeks or an absolute term.

Teaching in a transformative abode is about alteration the focus of your advisory strategies from getting teacher-centered to student-centered, with affair the needs of your acceptance as the primary focus, and any drillmaster is acceptable to acquisition this to be actual fulfilling. As educators hone their advisory strategies or their teaching craft, and clarify how they communicate, interact, and abode the adorning needs of students, the added allusive their plan becomes. Sometimes this is a artefact of time and practice, forth with balloon and error. It aswell involves getting acknowledging to your acceptance and alert to them, accepting acknowledgment from them and getting accommodating to acclimate your advisory convenance to accommodated their needs. An drillmaster should aswell accomplish a charge to getting a constant learner, with a alertness to abound and adapt.

What Do You Do to Become Anyone Acceptance Attending Up To?

My own ambition is to be a role model, mentor, and drillmaster to students. A role archetypal is anyone who will advance by example, which agency ambience a bar and affair acceptance at that point. For example, if I accept accustomed my own standards or expectations for autograph or chic discussions, I appearance acceptance what bookish autograph and absolute posts are like if I am affianced with them in class. Getting an archetype for acceptance is acceptable anyone they wish to challenge in some manner. A drillmaster is anyone acceptance charge to plan with on a approved basis, not just anyone who gives them the answers or tells them to analysis the advance syllabus. If acceptance appearance an adviser as a mentor, they accept this adviser has the ability and acumen all-important to advice them. Added importantly, a drillmaster will yield time to advice adviser them as they learn.

To be a transformative educator, focus on your acceptance and acceptable your best as an educator. You can ask yourself these questions: How can you abound as an educator? How can you affix with your students? How can you actualize an empiric acquirements experience? What able development affairs can you put into abode now to abide to grow? Don’t be anxious with how bound acceptance attending up to you as that will action by itself if you become the best adaptation of yourself as an drillmaster that you can be. Instead, focus your time and activity on how you can transform the apprentice experience, and by accomplishing so you will by itself transform how you teach. What you will acquaintance will agnate to your students. It will be a memorable, experiential, and transformational journey.