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Cassini data yields super sharp infrared images of Titan

By
Brooks Hays
The new Titan images are the highest resolution maps of the Saturn moon yet produced. Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Stéphane Le Mouélic, University of Nantes, Virginia Pasek, University of Arizona
The new Titan images are the highest resolution maps of the Saturn moon yet produced. Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Stéphane Le Mouélic, University of Nantes, Virginia Pasek, University of Arizona

July 19 (UPI) -- Cassini disappeared into Saturn's atmosphere late last year, but the spacecraft continues to yield impressive images.

This week, NASA shared a series of super sharp infrared images of Saturn's moon Titan, compiled using 13 years of data collected by the probe's Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer, or VIMS instrument.

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The moon's hazy atmosphere prevents clear observations of Titan's surface in the visible spectra, but infrared instruments can penetrate the haze.

Because the VIMS dataset includes observations collected during different flybys under a variety of light conditions, previous maps of Titan featured visible seams between different regions. In the newest images, the seams have been smoothed away, yielding "by far the best representation of how the globe of Titan might appear to the casual observer," according to NASA.

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory updated the mosaic maps of Titan's surface using an image-editing method called the "band-ratio" technique. The color-altering approach helps minimize the visibility of the seams while highlighting the spectral variations in the composition of Titan's surface.

"It is quite clear from this unique set of images that Titan has a complex surface, sporting myriad geologic features and compositional units," NASA wrote in an update. "The VIMS instrument has paved the way for future infrared instruments that could image Titan at much higher resolution, revealing features that were not detectable by any of Cassini's instruments."

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Cassini's 20-year mission was a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

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