CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Titan's Odd Spot Baffles Scientists
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Titan's Odd Spot Baffles Scientists
PIA 07876

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  The recently discovered infrared-bright spot on Titan (see PIA07877) is the type of enigmatic feature that is best investigated by putting together as many different types of complementary information as possible. Cassini's varied array of scientific instruments is equal to the task. This montage shows the spot in infrared wavelengths from the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS) at left, from the imaging science subsystem (ISS) in the center, and a combination of both data sets on the right.

When put together, the two different views show more than either does separately. The visual and infrared spectrometer team noted the bright region in the image on the left after Cassini's March 31, 2004, Titan encounter. The strange, bright feature to the southeast of Xanadu (see PIA06154) was flagged as unusual and informally dubbed "The Smile" by imaging team members in December 2004. Together the images show that The Smile (seen by ISS at 0.938 micron) bounds the infrared "Bright, Red Spot" toward the southeast. The bright region seen in the VIMS image extends several hundred kilometers to the north and west of The Smile, but does not cover the dark terrain located between this area and Xanadu farther to the northwest. The Smile feature also seems to extend farther west at the south end than the Bright, Red Spot.

It seems clear that both instruments are detecting the same basic feature on Titan's surface. This bright patch may be due to an impact event, landslide, cryovolcanism, or atmospheric processes. Its distinct color and brightness suggest that it may have formed relatively recently.

The false-color image on the left was created using images taken at 1.7 microns (represented by blue), 2.0 microns (green), and 5.0 microns (red). The images that comprise this view were taken by the VIMS instrument on the April 16, 2005, Titan flyby. Several views were stitched together to make a mosaic. The result was then reprojected to simulate the view from the imaging camera so that the two could be directly compared.

The ISS image was taken by the narrow-angle camera on December 10, 2004, using a spectral filter centered at 0.938 microns (938 nanometers). The image was taken at a distance of 1.5 million kilometers from Titan and has a pixel scale of 9 kilometers (6 miles) per pixel. The image is centered on 8 degrees south latitude, 112 degrees west longitude. This image has been contrast enhanced and sharpened to improve surface feature visibility.

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 mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. For additional images visit the Cassini imaging team homepage http://ciclops.org and the VIMS page at http://wwwvims.lpl.arizona.edu.

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/University of Arizona/Space Science Institute
Released: May 25, 2005 (PIA 07876)
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