Thursday, March 30, 2017

S.M. Schmitz shares book 2 of The Genesis Project: Genesis Revealed

Today, I have over USA Today Bestselling Author, SM Schmitz to share her latest release, Book 2 of the Genesis Project.

Blurb for Genesis Revealed, book two of The Genesis Project

When Drake and Cade arrive in Somalia to retrieve the stolen cargo, Drake is faced with a horrifying realization: The Genesis Project is still with him. He’d never freed himself, after all.

Back in the hands of Dr. Mike Parker, Drake’s fate takes a sinister turn. But the more he learns about his past, the more he’s revealed to be the monster he fears, and he will have to find his way back from losing what is most important to him: His own identity.


Another bullet shattered the driver’s side window so Cade flinched as the shards of glass blew into his face but just slipped lower on the seat and shifted the truck into third gear as he sped up. The engine protested so I felt the need to point out he’d blow the transmission if he didn’t shift into a higher gear.

I also felt the need to point out his face was bleeding.

“Drake, I swear to God, if you don’t shut up, I’ll shoot you myself,” he warned.

“Don’t think that’s a smart move,” I told him. “Then you’re stuck in East Africa by yourself trying to track down a potentially crazy man’s illegal shipment of illegal weapons from smugglers who probably constitute their own small army.”

Cade shot me a hard look and snapped, “Get off the floor and shoot back, dumbass.”

I pulled myself up and reminded him, “You’re the one who told me to get down there.”

“Drake, just shoot!” he yelled.

I wasn’t exactly sure how I was supposed to shoot at the vehicles following us since there was no rear window. Parker had thought he’d designed my brain to function like a computer’s—input codes and commands and the machine carries them out—but he’d failed with his design just as he’d failed in so many other areas. My brain worked just like anyone else’s when he wasn’t forcing directives into it that I was compelled to obey.

And with no directives, I felt completely lost and useless to my only friend.

I licked my lips and decided there were worse ideas than just sticking my head out of a window that had been shot out… like lying to the only woman I’d ever loved and dragging her into my irretrievably damaged world.

As soon as I leaned out the broken window, Cade started yelling at me. “Drake! Are you out of your goddamn mind?”

“Probably,” I yelled back. I fired at the only car I could see through the clouds of dirt our tires were creating. I heard the splintering of their windshield and ducked back inside before the buzzing of more bullets sailed past my door.

Cade shot me another exasperated look and warned me, “Do that again, and I really will kill you myself.”

“You told me to shoot back!”

Cade groaned and swiped his sleeve across the left side of his face where blood still trickled from the abrasions the glass had caused. “Just give me a few minutes and let me think.”

I waited about twenty seconds before pointing out, “Your original idea was to follow a caravan. I think you’ve blown our cover.”

“Asshole,” he mumbled.

I lifted a shoulder at him and waited only ten second this time. “Even if you lose the guys following us, we’re just going to drive around Somalia aimlessly now. This was a terrible plan.”

Cade reached up to the CB radio’s microphone and pulled it down then handed it to me. “So I lied. I never intended to follow anyone because I doubt they travel in caravans. We’re going to lose the bastards trying to kill us then wait for whomever is expecting this shipment to contact us. They’ll come to us hoping they can get their cargo back.”

I stared stupidly at the microphone in my hand because I was certain now this had to be the worst idea Cade had ever come up with. And he’d known if he told me the truth, I would have refused to go along with it.

“Do you have another secret plan to get away from the assholes shooting at us?” I asked.

“Actually, I do,” Cade replied. “Put your seatbelt on.”

I groaned but yanked on the belt and clicked it into place. I had a horrible suspicion as to what his other secret plan would be.

Cade slammed on the brakes and my chest smashed into the belt as it locked. The impact took my breath away so I couldn’t even curse at him. Behind us, I could hear the tires spinning in the dirt as they attempted to maneuver away from the van that was either carrying dead marine life or an entire arsenal of stolen weapons.

If we had a van filled with dead fish, I was going to be seriously pissed at Cade for the rest of my life—even if the rest of my life was only three minutes because the guys who’d been following us were armed with more than a practically useless Beretta.

I yanked the belt off and slid down from the seat again. The dirt and gravel on the service road we’d taken couldn’t hide the footsteps of the men as they approached our cab. Cade had dropped down to the floorboard beneath the steering wheel, his elbows resting on the seat as he focused on the shattered window. He held his own Beretta ready to shoot the first person to appear in his view.

The footsteps on my side of the van slowed down. Even though the chips in my brain weren’t currently directing my thoughts and actions, I held onto the programming Parker had given me over the years, including the ability to gauge distance by sound.

Someone was four feet outside the passenger window.

My chest ached from slamming into the seatbelt, but I leaned against the passenger seat anyway so I could wait for a visual on the man outside. His steps became shuffles as he inched toward me.

And then they stopped.

A voice called out to me in perfect, unaccented English, “Drake, did you really think you’d be able to escape us?”

I inhaled sharply, which made that biting pain in my chest spread to my lungs. But I’d left nothing behind me in Virginia.

The Genesis Project had been with me the entire time.

Review of Genesis Revealed
By SM Schmitz

Book two was as great as book one.  Fresh and riveting.
The ending leaves in a bit of a cliffhanger, but it had enough of a landing spot so that I didn’t fall off in outrage.

A solid five stars. Can’t wait to read the next book.

Buy links:





Author bio:

S.M. Schmitz is a USA Today Bestselling Author, and has an M.A. in modern European history. She is a former world history instructor who now writes novels filled with fantasy and, sometimes, aliens.

Her novels are infused with the same humorous sarcasm that she employed frequently in the classroom, and as a native of Louisiana, she sets many of her scenes here. Like Dietrich in Resurrected, she is also convinced Louisiana has been cursed with mosquitoes much like Biblical Egypt with its locusts.

You can receive her post-apocalyptic novella, The Scavengers, for free by signing up for her mailing list.
Please visit her website,, for more information about all of her science fiction and mythic fiction titles or follow her on Amazon or BookBub.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Wendy Knight shares Fire Burn

 **This is the second book in the series but can be read first**

“I’ve always been able to see the auras. But I knew you couldn’t because you refuse to see the darkness in people and I didn’t want you to ever change. So I didn’t tell you.”

Fate thought the prophecy was over. She graduated high school, made big plans with her family and her boyfriend to travel the world, and got a full-ride scholarship for college in the fall.

Despite blowing up the chemistry lab twice.

But all that changes when the witches show up, because the war they thought they won is just beginning and without Fate and Destiny leading the way, it’s a war they will all lose. Unfortunately, the coven wants them to lead separate teams. Like they somehow don’t realize Fate works better with her sister by her side.

Oh, and Damien.

Damien isn’t going to let the girl he loves face these odds alone. In fact, he’ll risk everything, even her, to help win this battle and keep her alive. Damien makes an impossible choice, one that will change them all.

Sometimes, love isn’t the answer.


Author Bio and links:
Wendy Knight is the award-winning, bestselling author of the young adult series Fate on Fire and Riders of Paradesos. She was born and raised in Utah by a wonderful family who spoiled her rotten because she was the baby. Now she spends her time driving her husband crazy with her many eccentricities (no water after five, terror when faced with a live phone call, no touching the knives…you get the idea). She also enjoys chasing her three adorable kids, playing tennis, watching football, reading, and hiking. Camping is also big—her family is slowly working toward a goal of seeing all the National Parks in the U.S.
You can usually find her with at least one Pepsi nearby, wearing ridiculously high heels for whatever the occasion. And if everything works out just right, she will also be writing.
Social Media Links:

Friday, March 24, 2017

Hearts and Minds by JC Hay

Piracy, Psychics, and Swords, Oh My!

Like a lot of SFR writers, Firefly holds a special place in my heart – despite its flaws (and they are many), the characters, and the makeshift family they created for themselves draw me back in repeatedly. When I wrote my first space opera romance, Hearts and Minds, I wanted to capture some of that same feeling.  Most of all, I wanted to create the sense of payday-to-payday desperation that followed Captain Tightpants in my favorite episodes; a sense that the ship is held together as much by the captain’s willpower as anything so mundane as welds and joins.
Syna Davout’s ship – The Hangman’s Quarry – was designed to follow in the footsteps of the renegade vessels before it, especially Serenity and Moya (from Farscape). Someplace that was more home than ship, and carried the imprints of its crew (both past and current) in the design. From the snap-locks that hold everything in place (to protect them from Syna’s evasive piloting) to the gym built into the first cargo bay (a remnant from Syna’s old partner, Anbjorn), to the ship’s gossipy AI, I wanted to convey that sense of lived-in, broken comfort.
I contrasted it early on with the sleek, impersonal cleanliness of Galen’s Narcissus-class corvette. Decorated in white tiles polished metal, it’s a far cry from the cramped, dingy chaos of the Quarry, and Syna disparages it almost immediately. Unfortunately for her, there’s more to her act of piracy than she’s aware, and if there’s one thing she hates more than sterile silver spaceships, it’s being someone else’s pawn—

Hearts and Minds

Syna Davout was hired for a simple smash-and-grab job—smash into a luxury yacht, grab the cash, and split the proceeds with her client. Unfortunately, the client failed to mention that she’d be the diversion for an assassination attempt that destroys the yacht and leaves her with a passenger she neither wanted nor expected - a fugitive telepath caught in the middle of a revolution.
Galen Fash knew his days were numbered. The fledgling uprising on his home world needs him to buy them time, with his life if necessary. The last thing he wanted is to get involved with a pirate captain-for-hire whose larger-than-life emotions draw him like a moth to a flame.
On the run from a relentless enemy that wants them both dead will be hard enough without acknowledging the attraction that flares between them. Together they might have a chance, assuming they can survive each other…

Available Exclusively on Amazon:


“Are you going to help or just stare down my shirt?”
Galen blinked, smiled. “Is there a way I can do both?”
She shoved a curl of hair out of her face, pink leaching into her cheeks. “Just hold this.” She indicated the wires in her hands with a jut of her chin. He had to shift closer to reach and found himself too conscious of the way she pressed back against him as she worked. He willed his body not to respond and hoped it wasn’t too distracted to ignore him. She mumbled something as she flattened her back against him.
“Sorry, what?”
“Close your eyes,” she whispered. His pulse lurched erratically until blue-white plasma illuminated the space, and he realized she’d issued it not as a come-on, but a warning. His eyes snapped shut and focused on the red-yellow afterimage of the welding lance drifting quietly behind his eyelids. “Two more, then I think we’ve bypassed it.”
“That’ll bring the shields up to full?”
“It’ll bring them back to where they were before we started this venture, which is something. Stay out of the aft-most cargo hold—I had to reroute power from its environmental controls.”
“Is that safe?”
The welder sparked again, the light savage even through his closed eyes. The smell of ozone and charged particles drifted through the air. Combined with her shampoo, it made her smell like a spice field after an electrical storm.
“Yeah, just don’t go in there. Not much choice in the matter, the starboard field’s influx coupler got slagged. I don’t just carry those around with me.” The welder flared again. “That should finish that.”
Galen opened his eyes cautiously. “You can’t ask Bree?”
Syna shook her head. “No. There’s no pickups in here, and no speaker for her to respond through. I have to do it from the hall.”
He grinned. “Ooooh, unchaperoned. I like it.”
She laughed, her blush renewed. Warmth flooded out from her, her emotions a sea he wanted to swim in. She has no idea how sexy she is, he realized. On impulse, he leaned forward and kissed her.
She froze for a heartbeat and a flicker of panic went through him, then her hand tangled in his hair and tugged him closer. Her body crushed against him and any control he’d aspired to evaporated. The heat of her body soaked through his skin, suffused him as he lost himself in her.
She broke the kiss long enough to take a breath, then tugged his hair back to bite along his jawline. The combination of teeth and tongue overloaded Galen’s senses. His knees lost any sense of strength they had, and he reached out for support with one hand.
There was a soft pop and a whiff of electrical smoke. She pulled up from the kiss and touched her nose-tip to his, a quiet smile playing across her mouth. “Please tell me you didn’t just rip out my lovely bypass.”

About JC Hay

JC Hay writes romantic science fiction and space opera, because the coolest gadgets in the world are useless without someone to share them.
In addition to Romance Writers of America, he is also a proud member of the SFR Brigade (for Science Fiction Romance), the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance chapter, and a proud member of RWA’s PAN (the published authors network).
In addition to piracy in high space, JC writes the Corporate Services series, a set of connected cyberpunk romances set eighty years in our future where the limits of humanity are being stretched and tested.
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 short story!):
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The False Moon of Saturn

Seriously, does this look like a moon? Notice the smoothness of the exterior wings, the pentagon shape, the scars over perfectly indented sections on the top.

These pics come directly from Cassini via the NASA site.

If that is a spaceship, it's a 12-mile wide spaceship. So there is no way anyone on earth made it.

There used to be a movie taken from 22 pictures, but it seems to have been removed now. But they have left us a few pics...

Whoever made this ship, built it to be sturdy and long lasting. 

The tiny 'object/spacecraft' Pan has managed to clear out a 168-mile wide path in Saturn's ring. Were they mineral mining? Is it possible they still are? Some of the ship's fins look to be in bad shape, but the ship itself appears to be in good shape.  Yes, there are scars on its top, but not sufficiently to break it open.

Is it possible they wait for rescue while they continue their job?

Pan was first seen in the 1980-1981 shots by Voyager.
It wasn't seen again until 2004 by Cassini
And now again when Cassini takes a closeup on March 7, 2017 giving us the best pics so far, and the greatest evidence that this is NOT A MOON.

But here is the 'It's a moon' theory:

"Pan looks so messed-up because it actually orbits within a gap in Saturn’s famous rings. As it circles around in that narrow strip, Pan draws in bits of the material and debris that make up the rings with its own meager gravity, and these new additions pile up around the moon’s waist, so to speak."

Keep in mind that the gap is 168 miles and Pan is 12 miles wide. So that very smooth pentagon fin that wraps around it is just "Additions piling up around it's waist."   

To be fair, NASA isn't saying this. It isn't saying anything about PAN's odd shape that I can find. INVERSE said this. Still, I suspect some NASA person said this when being forced to explain the oddity to INVERSE.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Titans lakes and human survivability

Both Earth and Titan have nitrogen-dominated atmospheres -- over 95 percent nitrogen in Titan's case. However, unlike Earth, Titan has very little oxygen; the rest of the atmosphere is mostly methane and trace amounts of other gases, including ethane. And at the frigid temperatures found at Saturn's great distance from the sun, the methane and ethane can exist on the surface in liquid form.
For this reason, scientists had long speculated about the possible existence of hydrocarbon lakes and seas on Titan, and data from the NASA/ESA Cassini-Huygens mission does not disappoint. Since arriving in the Saturn system in 2004, the Cassini spacecraft has revealed that more than 620,000 square miles (1.6 million square kilometers) of Titan's surface -- almost two percent of the total -- are covered in liquid. 
There are three large seas, all located close to the moon's north pole, surrounded by numerous of smaller lakes in the northern hemisphere. Just one large lake has been found in the southern hemisphere.
The exact composition of these liquid reservoirs remained elusive until 2014, when the Cassini radar instrument was first used to show that Ligeia Mare, the second largest sea on Titan and similar in size to Lake Huron and Lake Michigan combined, is methane-rich. A new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, which used the radar instrument in a different mode, independently confirms this result.  

How to make oxygen on Titan

There are five known ways oxygen can be created:

1) Photosynthesis,

The most common natural method is photo-synthesis, in which plants use sunlight convert carbon dioxide in the air into oxygen.

2) Oxygen starved Bacteria (is the latest new way).

In 2010, a team of scientist found that bacteria could consume methane and were producing oxygen by a previously unknown biochemical process. In the presence of nitrates there was no consumption of methane, but when nitrites were added, the bacteria consumed methane and released nitrogen. The microbiologists proposed the bacteria produce nitrogen and oxygen from two molecules of nitric oxide, which in turn is produced from the nitrites. The oxygen would then be used to burn the methane for energy, with the nitrogen released as a waste product. The enzyme or enzymes used in the process are so far unknown.

x3) The most common commercial method for producing oxygen is the separation of air using either a cryogenic distillation process or a vacuum swing adsorption process. Nitrogen and argon are also produced by separating them from air.

4) Oxygen can also be produced as the result of a chemical reaction in which oxygen is freed from a chemical compound and becomes a gas. This method is used to generate limited quantities of oxygen for life support on submarines, aircraft, and spacecraft.

5) Hydrogen and oxygen can be generated by passing an electric current through water and collecting the two gases as they bubble off. Hydrogen forms at the negative terminal and oxygen at the positive terminal. This method is called electrolysis and produces very pure hydrogen and oxygen. It uses a large amount of electrical energy, however, and is not economical for large-volume production.
Note: Oxygen is reactive and will form oxides with all other elements except the noble gases: helium, neon, argon and krypton.

A molecule of methane consists of 4 hydrogen atoms and one carbon atom. To burn, you need two O2 molecules. The burning looks like:
CH4 + 2 02 -> CO2 * 2H2O

The process gives off energy (that means the molecules will have high velocity and heat up the surroundings, perhaps triggering other methane and oxygen molecules to combine.)

Thus, methane can be used to create CO2 & Water. Water can then be drunk or used to make Oxygen.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Veronica Scott shares her upcoming Danger in the Stars

Thanks for having me as your guest yet again! I always love stopping by to talk scifi romance. Today I’m sharing a little of what influenced me to write my soon-to-be-released novel Danger in the Stars, plus an exclusive excerpt.
Here’s the story for Danger in the Stars:
Miriell, a powerful empathic priestess, has been kidnapped from her own primitive planet along with a number of her people, and sold to the evil Amarotu Combine, largest organized crime syndicate in the Sectors. When she and her handler are sent to use her power to commit an assassination, she must leave behind her own sister as hostage to ensure her compliance. Miriell cannot ask for aid without endangering herself and others.
Despite his best efforts, Combine enforcer Conor Stewart is entranced by Miriell, and helps her evade the worst of brutal treatment from the rest of the mob. But Conor must keep his distance, before the lovely empath learns that he has secrets of his own–secrets that could get them both killed.
The situation becomes dire when Conor and Miriell come to the attention of both the Combine overlords and the deadly Mawreg, aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the Mawreg’s next victims? And will Conor help her, or remain loyal to his evil bosses?
VS Note: This is the story of the sister who is mentioned in passing in Star Cruise: Stowaway, my story in the award winning PETS IN SPACE anthology. The new novel is completely standalone.

My influences: First of all, when I was writing Star Cruise: Stowaway  for the PETS IN SPACE anthology, I started thinking about the heroine’s sister (who is briefly mentioned in passing in the novella) and what would happen to her, sent to do the crime syndicate’s bidding and surrounded by the thugs and others who work for the Combine. How would she escape their clutches and who would be her hero? Conor Stewart introduced himself to me, as it were, and I knew he’d help her, even if in so doing he had to jeopardize his own position and mission. He truly is a hero but no spoilers!
I also have to say that an old Star Trek episode, “The Empath” made a huge impression on me many years ago. Not only did I identify with the heroine in that program, feeling I was probably pretty darn empathic myself, but also it left me with a desire to write a story featuring someone who had those powers to a ramped up degree. How would she use them, what could she proactively do with them? his book really allowed me to explore the concepts.

Where the crime boss has demanded Miriell show how her power works:

 Once the car reached the restaurant, Opherra swept inside as if she was a queen and the entire planet her domain. Miriell and the others trailed behind her as the boss was taken immediately to a highly desirable table with a breathtaking view of the unending cityscape. Twinkling lights of all colors stretched to the horizon in all directions. Opherra declined the menus and ordered for the table without asking anyone’s preferences. The restaurant was crowded, with couples and well-dressed family groups. A trio of musicians was playing softly in the far corner of the room.
It was at the third course when Opherra suddenly leaned over and said, “I want a demonstration of what the exotic can do. Prove to me you can be of assistance in what I need.”
“Can you give me a few more details on what you want me to make her do?” Jareck asked.
Miriell felt nauseous as her muscles tensed while she waited to learn what atrocious act she’d be required to perform now, what perversion of her Thuun-given gifts would be demanded.
“The end game is to help me attach a particular influential gentleman who’s been curiously resistant to my charms,” Opherra said, her lips twisted in annoyance. “I need him in thrall to me for our plans here to move forward. In too deep to back out when I reveal my true agenda. No names, but he’s key. My boss is tired of waiting for the standard ploys to yield results.”
“Is he here?”
She shook her head. “Of course not. I need to see these abilities in action before I risk my entire operation on an unknown.” Glancing around the restaurant, she laughed. “Oh yes, an excellent target for the demonstration I want. You see that blond woman, the one with her husband, the older couple and three children? I never saw anyone less likely to commit suicide. Make her throw herself off the balcony and I’ll be a believer.” She drummed her talon-like red fingernails on the tablecloth. “Now.”
Miriell’s heart sank. The target was clearly happy, surrounded by her family, and had been casually targeted by Opherra to die, just to prove a point. She gathered her power, which was curiously difficult to do, perhaps because she was so repelled by the task, and hummed the death song under her breath. Reaching out with her senses, she found the tiniest gray in the unfortunate woman’s vivid colors. Each sentient has their private sorrows and constant worries. Miriell worked to expand the gray, suppress the other colors. The woman’s companions were oblivious to her sudden silence because the lively children were laughing and talking so happily. Suddenly there were gasps as the target of Miriell’s attack rose abruptly from the table, knocking her chair into the person next to her. Face blank, the woman strode toward the edge of the dining area, where the observation platform built over thin air had safety rails, but nothing robust enough to stop a determined adult from pitching headfirst to the ground hundreds of feet below.  Her husband raced after her but she had a head start and was increasing her speed as she went.
Hoping no one would notice what she was doing, Miriell continued her pressure on the woman but began to subtly affect one of the waiters until at literally the last second, he backed away from a table, carrying a huge load of dishes and collided with the would-be suicide, sending them both reeling and collapsing to the floor, tangled together, covered in food and broken crockery. Miriell released her hold on both sentients and fell back in her chair. Hand shaking, she reached for her glass of water and sipped, although her throat was nearly closed from stress. Please let that be enough of a demonstration for Opherra.
As she set the glass down, she realized Conor was watching her, silver gray eyes narrowed.

Due to my Editor having a few delays when real life issues arose, the book will be out towards the end of March….you can sign up for my mailing list to be notified when Danger in the Stars is released. And in the meantime you can read Star Cruise: Stowaway, my novella in the Pets In Space anthology, featuring Tyrelle, the sister of the heroine in the forthcoming full length novel.

Buy Links for Pets In Space
iBooks    Amazon    Nook      GooglePlay     Kobo

Author Bio:
Best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Titan: What we know now

system. This video uses actual images taken by the probe during its two-and-a-half hour fall under its parachutes.
 ESA's Huygens probe made its descent to the surface of Saturn's hazy moon, Titan. Carried to Saturn by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, Huygens made the most distant landing ever on another world, and the only landing on a body in the outer solar

"The Huygens descent and landing represented a major breakthrough in our exploration of Titan as well as the first soft landing on an outer-planet moon. It completely changed our understanding of this haze-covered ocean world."
-- Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

"The Huygens images were everything our images from orbit were not. Instead of hazy, sinuous features that we could only guess were streams and drainage channels, here was incontrovertible evidence that at some point in Titan's history -- and perhaps even now -- there were flowing liquid hydrocarbons on the surface. Huygens' images became a Rosetta stone for helping us interpret our subsequent findings on Titan."
-- Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado

"Cassini and Huygens have shown us that Titan is an amazing world with a landscape that mimics Earth in many ways. During its descent, the Huygens probe captured views that demonstrated an entirely new dimension to that comparison and highlights that there is so much more we have yet to discover. For me, Huygens has emphasized why it is so important that we continue to explore Titan."
-- Alex Hayes, a Cassini scientist at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

"Twelve years ago, a small probe touched down on an orangish, alien world in the outer solar system, marking humankind's most distant landing to date. Studying Titan helps us tease out the potential of habitability of this tiny world and better understand the chemistry of the early Earth."
-- Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters, Washington


Floating high above the hydrocarbon lakes, wispy clouds have finally started to return to Titan's northern latitudes. Clouds like these disappeared from Titan's (3,200 miles or 5,150 kilometers across) northern reaches for several years (from about 2010 to 2014). Now they have returned, but in far smaller numbers than expected. Since clouds can quickly appear and disappear, Cassini scientists regularly monitor the large moon, in the hopes of observing cloud activity. They are especially interested in comparing these observations to predictions of how cloud cover should change with Saturn’s seasons. Titan’s clear skies are not what researchers expected.

Cassini's "T120" and "T121" flybys of Titan, on June 7 and July 25, 2016, respectively, provided views of high northern latitudes over extended time periods -- more than 24 hours during both flybys. Intriguingly, the ISS and VIMS observations appear strikingly different from each other. In the ISS observations (monochrome image at top), surface features are easily identifiable and only a few small, isolated clouds were detected. In contrast, the VIMS observations (color image at bottom) suggest widespread cloud cover during both flybys. The observations were made over the same time period, so differences in illumination geometry or changes in the clouds themselves are unlikely to be the cause for the apparent discrepancy: VIMS shows persistent atmospheric features over the entire observation period and ISS consistently detects surface features with just a few localized clouds.

The answer to what could be causing the discrepancy appears to lie with Titan's hazy atmosphere, which is much easier to see through at the longer infrared wavelengths that VIMS is sensitive to (up to 5 microns) than at the shorter, near-infrared wavelength used by ISS to image Titan's surface and lower atmosphere (0.94 microns). High, thin cirrus clouds that are optically thicker than the atmospheric haze at longer wavelengths, but optically thinner than the haze at the shorter wavelength of the ISS observations, could be detected by VIMS and simultaneously lost in the haze to ISS -- similar to trying to see a thin cloud layer on a hazy day on Earth. This phenomenon has not been seen again since July 2016, but Cassini has several more opportunities to observe Titan over the last months of the mission in 2017, and scientists will be watching to see if and how the weather changes.

As southern winter solstice approaches in the Saturn system, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been revealing dramatic seasonal changes in the atmospheric temperature and composition of Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

Winter is taking a grip on Titan's southern hemisphere, and a strong, whirling atmospheric circulation pattern -- a vortex -- has developed in the upper atmosphere over the south pole. Cassini has observed that this vortex is enriched in trace gases -- gases that are otherwise quite rare in Titan's atmosphere. Cassini's observations show a reversal in the atmosphere above Titan's poles since the spacecraft arrived at Saturn in 2004, when similar features were seen in the northern hemisphere.

graphic in green, blue, orange and purple
Scientists from NASA’s Cassini mission think the appearance of a cloud of dicyanoacetylene (C4N2) ice in Titan’s stratosphere is explained by “solid-state” chemistry taking place inside ice particles. The particles have an inner layer of cyanoacetylene (HC3N) ice coated with an outer layer of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) ice. (Left) When a photon of light penetrates the outer shell, it can interact with the HC3N, producing C3N and H. (Center) The C3N then reacts with HCN to yield (right) C4N2 and H. Another reaction that also yields C4N2 ice and H also is possible, but less likely. "The compositions of the polar stratospheres of Titan and Earth could not differ more," said Michael Flasar, CIRS principal investigator at Goddard. "It is amazing to see how well the underlying physics of both atmospheres has led to analogous cloud chemistry."

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

And why have I fixated on Titan?

In 2018, I will begin a new series: