In orbit around Saturn is the giant moon Titan. It is the second largest moon in the Solar System (after Jupiter's Ganymede), even larger than the planet Mercury, and is the only known moon with a dense atmosphere. There are countless of fantastic features to be amazed at in this place, but I have chosen two to illustrate in this scene.
With an average temperature of -180 C all water here is frozen hard as rock. In fact, the surface landscape of Titan is indeed mostly made of frozen water ice. But Titan's atmosphere is rich in hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane, and the low temperature is perfect for these elements to occur naturally in three states; frozen, liquid and gas. So, just as on Earth where we have a water cycle (ice melts, becomes water, water evaporates into clouds, turning into liquid and becomes rain and so forth), Titan has a methane cycle. Methane evaporates and rises to form clouds, eventually turning into rain, falling over the surface. And this is the most amazing part; the rain in some places is enough to fill entire lakes. Lakes of methane!
Titan is the only place in the Solar System, other than Earth, known to have large bodies of liquid on its surface. And they are really there, huge lakes, with shorelines, islands and small archipelagos. This scene takes place over a lake know as Ligeia Mare, the second largest on Titan, about 500 kilometers in diameter, located in the north polar region of the moon.
The second fantastic feature I wanted to illustrate is the combination of Titan's very dense atmosphere and its relatively low gravity. As a human on Titan you would weigh about 14% of what you do on Earth, and in the dense atmosphere it would be enough to strap wings on your arms to make you able to fly like a bird. On Titan you could fly like a bird, over lakes of methane! (If you wore some really warm clothes of course.)
This scene is built entirely in CG, but I used this radar map mosaic
of the lake as reference for the shape of the landscape. And I also got a lot of inspiration for the coloring from this mindblowing video
. It shows real video footage from ESAs Huygens Probe as it descends through Titans atmosphere in a parachute and lands on the surface. There are no lakes in this particular region, but if you allow some speculation, the rounded rocks on the ground, seen at the end are similar to the ones you'd find at the bottom of a dried out river bed.
There is plenty of information about Titan and its lakes available online (Wikipedia
is a good place to start), and as the Cassini spacecraft is still operational in the Saturn system, news are currently being updated.