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Like the mysterious dark markings on Mars that once haunted astronomer Percival Lowell, shadowy features and mysterious markins appear to stain the surface of puzzling Titan.
Sixteen Cassini narrow angle camera images were used to produce the map shown here. The images vary in scale from 88 to 35 kilometers (52 to 21 miles) per pixel. The map has a scale of 15 kilometers (9 miles) per pixel and covers Titan's surface from about 80 degrees South to 35 degrees North latitude. In this map we can clearly resolve surface features as small as about 100 kilometers (60 miles) across. This is an improvement of nearly a factor of 3 over ground-based observations of Titan, though still too poor to understand the surface in detail.
From analysis of maps such as this, it is easy to discern the characteristics of a moon's surface. The equatorial region (30 degrees South to 30 degrees North latitude) is crossed by dark markings, although they are less prominent near longitude 90 degrees over the bright region named "Xanadu". We now see that the dark markings often have relatively straight boundaries with preferred orientations - suggestive of internal, probably complex tectonic processes. Some of the brighter, round markings might be recent impact craters, including a `rayed' feature near longitude 130 degrees on the leading hemisphere of Titan.
Cassini will make 45 close passes by Titan over the next four years. On July 2, 2004, Cassini will make its first "distant" pass over Titan's South Pole, returning images that are 17 times higher in resolution than the best images which comprise this map.
The `mapped' images were taken through the methane "window" at 938 nanometers through a polarizing filter. This combination was designed specifically to reduce the obscuration by atmospheric haze. This method for seeing Titan's surface was explained in an earlier release about Titan (PIA 06071). Cassini took the images between June 2 and June 22, 2004 at distances ranging from 14.8 million kilometers (9.2 million miles) to 5.9 million kilometers (3.7 million miles) from Titan.
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 Office of Space Science, 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.