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The Big Picture: Cassini spies Titan's tall mountains

A spacecraft has discovered the largest mountains known on Titan, Saturn's smog-shrouded moon. A combination of infrared detectors and penetrating radar on the Cassini spacecraft recorded images of the 1.5-kilometer-high structures, planetary scientists announced Dec. 12 at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The infrared images reveal the shadows cast by the mountains, while the radar reveals their shape.

Coated with multiple layers of organic material and blanketed by clouds, the icy mountains are topped by bright, white material that could be methane snow, says Cassini scientist Larry Soderblom of the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz.

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