iPhone cameras are good — but they aren't as good as this. NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this view as it approached Saturn in early 2011. The GIF is so beautiful that it bubbled back up to the front page of Reddit recently.
In November 2014, the spacecraft caught another spectacular moment, this on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, using a visual and infra-red mapping spectrometer. The glowing orange you see here is called a sun glint, also known as a specular reflection, coming off Titan's massive sea Kraken Mare. It was captured during Cassini's flyby on Aug. 21, 2014. The spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn for the past 10 years.
NASA wrote about the glorious image in a recent blog post:
"The highest resolution data from this flyby — the area seen immediately to the right of the sun glint — cover the labyrinth of channels that connect Kraken Mare to another large sea, Ligeia Mare. Ligeia Mare itself is partially covered in its northern reaches by a bright, arrow-shaped complex of clouds. The clouds are made of liquid methane droplets, and could be actively refilling the lakes with rainfall."
What's life on Titan like? It's like the frozen version of Earth, according to NASA. The moon is "one of the most Earth-like worlds we have found to date," the scientists claim. The reason why this sunglint capture is so incredible is that typically Titan is covered in an orange haze of photochemical smog. Cassini rarely gets a peek of what lies underneath those murky skies, but it does frequently photograph views in violet light, like the one taken below. The two planetary bodies are mimicking each other!
— NASA Solar System (@NASASolarSystem) November 3, 2014
We all know what you're thinking. Do aliens live on Titan's surface? The answer is maybe. In this episode of The Sync Up, we actually asked a scientist at the SETI Institute how close they've come to any extraterrestrial discoveries. Watch it to find out!