CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Dark Spots on Titan
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This recent image of Titan reveals more complex patterns of bright and dark regions on the surface, including an intriguing small dark circular feature, completely surrounded by brighter material.

During the most recent two flybys of Titan, on March 31 and April 16, 2005, Cassini captured a number of images of the hemisphere of Titan that faces Saturn. The image at left is taken from a mosaic of images obtained in March 2005 (see PIA06222) and shows the location of the more recently acquired image at right. The new image shows intriguing details in the bright and dark patterns near an 80 kilometer- (50 mile-) wide crater seen first by Cassini's RADAR SAR experiment during a Titan flyby in February 2005 (see PIA07368) and subsequently seen by the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) cameras as a dark spot (center of the image at left).

Interestingly, a smaller, roughly 20 kilometer- (12 mile-) wide, dark and circular feature can be seen within an irregularly-shaped, brighter ring, and is similar to the larger dark spot associated with the RADAR crater. However, ISS sees only brightness variations, and without topographic information, the identity of this feature as an impact crater cannot be conclusively determined from this image. The Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) – which is sensitive to longer wavelengths where Titan's atmospheric haze is less obscuring – observed this area simultaneously with ISS, so those data, and perhaps future observations by Cassini's RADAR, may help to answer the question of this feature's origin.

The new image at right consists of five images that have been added together and enhanced to bring out surface detail and to reduce noise, although some camera artifacts remain.

These images were taken using a filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 938 nanometers – considered to be the Imaging Science Subsystem’s best spectral filter for observing the surface of Titan. This view was acquired from a distance of 33,000 kilometers (20,500 miles). The pixel scale of this image is 390 meters (0.2 miles) per pixel, although the actual resolution is likely to be several times larger.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and the Cassini imaging team home page, http://ciclops.org.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Released: May 2, 2005 (PIA 06234)
Image/Caption Information
  Dark Spots on Titan
PIA 06234

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