These three pictures were created from a sequence of images acquired by Cassini's Imaging Science Subsystem on 25 October 2004, 38 hours before its closest approach to Titan. They illustrate how the details of Titan's surface can be revealed by application of image processing techniques.
The picture on the left is a single image that has only undergone basic cleaning of noisy pixels and imperfections in the camera's CCD (charge-coupled device), a light sensitive detector which is similar to those found in digital cameras. To create the middle picture, multiple images have been used to enhance the contrast detected from Titan's surface and to reduce the blurring effect of Titan's atmospheric haze. The picture on the right has been further processed to sharpen the edges of features.
The processed images reveal sharp boundaries between dark and light regions on the surface; there are no shadows produced by topography in these images. The bright area on the center right is Xanadu, a region that has been observed previously from Earth and by Cassini. To the west of Xanadu lies an area of dark material which, in places, completely surrounds brighter features. Narrow, linear features, both dark and bright can also be seen. It is not clear what geologic processes have created these features, although it seems clear that the surface is being shaped by more than impact cratering alone. The very bright features near Titan's South Pole are clouds similar to those observed during the T0 distant flyby on July 2nd, 2004.
The region on the left side of these images will be targeted by higher-resolution observations as Cassini passes close to Titan on 26 October 2004.
All of these images were acquired by Cassini on 25 October 2004 at an altitude of 702,000 km and a pixel scale of 4.2 km. The Sun was illuminating Titan from nearly behind the spacecraft.
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.