From European Space Agency via Manu Garcia: “Infrared view of Titan”


From Manu Garcia, a friend from IAC.

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From European Space Agency

14 January 2019

Titan’s most iconic moon of Saturn infrared view.

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These six infrared images of moon, Titan, represent some of the clearest view jointless surface of the icy moon produced so far. The views were created using 13 years of data acquired by the Mapping Spectrometer Visual and Infrared (VIMS) instrument aboard the Cassini spacecraft NASA.

VIMS instrument on NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens spacecraft

NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft

The images are the result of a concentrate to combine data from the multitude of different observations of VIMS under a wide variety of lighting conditions and viewing along the Cassini effort.

VIMS previous map Titan (eg PIA02145 ) show a large variation in image resolution and lighting conditions, which results in obvious seams between the different areas of the surface. With the seams now missing, this new collection of images is by far, the best representation of how the globe might appear to the casual observer if not in the misty atmosphere of the moon, and probably will not be replaced for a while.

It is difficult to observe the surface of Titan in the visible region of the spectrum, due to the haze surrounding the globe around the moon. This is mainly due to small particles called aerosols in the upper atmosphere of Titan which scatter visible light. But Titan’s surface can be viewed more easily in a few infrared “windows”: infrared wavelengths where the scattering and absorption of light are much weaker. This is where the VIMS instrument is highlighted, separating the mist to obtain clear images of the surface of Titan. (For comparison, Figure B shows Titan as appears as visible light, PIA11603 ).

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Titan comparing the satellite image in optical or visible located in the center light, infrared Titan around.

VIMS image mosaicking Titan has always been a challenge because data were obtained through different geometries flyovers different observation and atmospheric conditions. One result is displayed very prominent seams in mosaics that are quite difficult to remove by imaging scientists. But, through painstaking and detailed analysis of the data, along with manual processing of the mosaics, the seams have been eliminated mostly. This is an update of the work previously discussed in PIA20022.

Any full-color image consists of three color channels: red, green and blue. Each of the three color channels combined to create these views are produced using a relationship between the brightness of the surface of Titan two different wavelengths (1.59 / 1.27 microns [red], 2.03 / 1 27 microns [green] and 1.27 / 1.08 microns [blue]) This technique (technique called “band ratio”) reduces the prominence of the seams, and emphasizes the subtle spectral variations in the materials in the Titan surface. For example, equatorial dune fields of the moon appear here with a uniform brown color. There is also bluish purple areas which may have different compositions from other bright areas, and can be enriched in ice water.

To see a map of Titan latitudes, longitudes and surface features labeled, see PIA20713 .

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Author’s illustration of Cassini between Saturn’s rings. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

It is quite clear from this unique set of images that Titan has a surface deporting countless complex geological characteristics and composition units. The VIMS instrument has paved the way for future infrared instruments that could represent Titan at a much higher resolution, revealing features that were not detectable by any of the instruments Cassini.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. VIMS team is based at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm . The homepage of the visual and infrared spectrometer mapping equipment is in http://www.vims.lpl.arizona.edu .

Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Stéphane Le Mouélic, University of Nantes, Virginia Pasek, University of Arizona

See the full article here .


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The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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