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This diagram depicts conditions observed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a flyby in Dec. 2013, when Saturn's magnetosphere was highly compressed, exposing Titan to the full force of the solar wind. In analyzing data from the encounter, scientists with Cassini's magnetometer team observed that the giant moon interacted with the solar wind much like the planets Mars and Venus, or a comet -- none of which possess their own internal magnetic field. Specifically, they saw that the solar wind draped itself around Titan, creating a shockwave that formed around Titan where the full-force solar wind rammed into the moon's atmosphere.
Previously, researchers had thought Titan would have a different sort of interaction with the solar wind because of the moon's complex atmospheric chemistry.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter. The magnetometer team is based at Imperial College, London, U.K.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini.