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Although a probe from Earth has now pierced the murky skies of Titan and landed on its surface, much of the moon remains for the Cassini spacecraft to explore. Puzzles from Titan continue to excite mission scientists.
This view of Titan uncovers new territory not previously imaged at moderate resolution by Cassini's cameras. The view is a composite of four nearly identical wide angle camera images, all taken using a filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 939 nanometers. The individual images have been combined and contrast enhanced in such a way as to sharpen surface features and enhance overall brightness variations.
Some of the territory in this view was covered by observations made by the RADAR SAR experiment in October 2004 and February 2005. At large scales, there are similarities between the views taken by the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) cameras and the RADAR SAR results, but there also are differences.
For example, the center of the floor of the approximately 80-kilometer (50-mile) wide crater identified by the RADAR team in February (near center in this image, see PIA 07368 for the RADAR image) is relatively bright at 2.2 centimeters, the wavelength of the RADAR experiment, but dark in the near-infrared wavelengths used here by ISS. This brightness difference is also apparent for some of the surrounding material and could indicate differences in surface composition or roughness.
Such comparisons, as well as information from observations acquired by the VIMS experiment at the same time as the ISS observations, will be important in trying to understand the nature Titan's surface materials.
The images for this composite view were taken on March 31, 2005, from distances ranging from approximately 146,000 to 130,000 kilometers (91,000 to 81,000 miles) from Titan and at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of about 57 degrees. The image scale is 8 kilometers (5 miles) per pixel. Previous observations indicate that, due to Titan's thick, hazy atmosphere, the sizes of surface features that can be resolved are a few times larger than the actual pixel scale.
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.