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Iridescent views show the surface of Saturn Moon Titan like never before



  Iridescent Views Reveal the Surface of Saturn Moon Titans like Never Before

These Saturn Moon Titan surface mosaics were created using data collected over 13 years on the NASA Cassini Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer. NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Nantes / University of Arizona

The mysterious surface of Saturn's giant moon Titan comes into sharp focus in newly published photos taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Cassini Team Members Created Six Images Data was collected over 1

3 years from the Saturn Circulation Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS). As the name implies, VIMS trades in long-wave infrared light and allows the instrument to see through the dense Titanic haze that obscures the view of the icy surface of the moon.

Cassini scientists have already created VIMS mosaics earlier efforts generally had prominent seams, NASA officials said. Of course, such seams result from the stitching together of images that were taken during various Titan encounters that had different lighting conditions and fly-by angles. [Amazing Photos: Titan, Saturn’s Largest Moon]

But the new mosaics are pretty much seamless – a breakthrough made possible by a re-analysis of the VIMS data and a painstaking manual manipulation of the resulting mosaics, mission staff said.

This new collection of images is by far the best representation of how the Titan's globe might appear to the casual observer, if not for the hazy atmosphere of the Moon, and probably will not be replaced for some time, "NASA wrote in a statement Wednesday (July 18).

In fact, the photos give viewers a new appreciation for Titan's complex and diverse surface, which boasts dunes of carbonaceous organic compounds, icy deposits, and large lakes of liquid hydrocarbons the only extraterrestrial object known to harbor stable bodies of liquid on its surface.)

In visible-light images taken of Titan's nitrogen-dominated atmosphere, this diversity is absent; 3,200 miles wide (5,150 kilometers) Moon looks like a fuzzy, orange-brown ball.

  Titan, as he appears from outer space in the visible light. NASA's Cassini took this view in January 2013, when it was about 1.45 million kilometers from the Big Moon.

Titan, as it appears from outer space in visible light. The NASA Cassini spacecraft took up this view in January 2013, when it was about 1.45 million kilometers from the Great Moon.

Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Institute for Space Science

Scientists could become more ingenious A quick look at the Titan landscape in the not-too-distant future: A mission called Dragonfly would explore the surface of the giant moon and to investigate its potential to harbor life with the help of a robotic mini helicopter. Dragonfly is one of two finalists, along with a comet sample return mission for NASA's next New Frontiers Mission slot. The agency's goal is to announce a winner in 2019 and launch the mission by 2025.

The Cassini Mission – a joint effort between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency – started in 1997 and reached Saturn in summer of 2004. Cassini swept through the gas giant system for over 13 years collecting a wealth of data on the planet , its iconic rings and its many moons. The Cassini mothership also carried a lander named Huygens, who landed on Titan in January 2005.

The groundbreaking mission ended in September 2017 with a deliberate death in Saturn – a move that was designed to prevent Cassini from contaminating Titan or other potentially life-sustaining satellite Enceladus with microbes from Earth.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.


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