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It's hard not to speculate about the origins of the narrow, dark features seen in Cassini's new images of Titan's surface. They tantalize the viewer, resembling the dark channels seen elsewhere on Titan, but are just at the limits of resolution of the images (a few kilometers) - too close to identify their true nature.
During the most recent two flybys of Titan, on March 31 and April 16, 2005, Cassini captured a number of images of the hemisphere of Titan that faces Saturn. The image at left is taken from a mosaic of images obtained in March 2005 (see PIA06222) and shows the location of the frame at right. The view at right, taken during the most recent Titan flyby, shows a close up of the eastern portion of a large bright feature.
The resolution is some what degraded in this frame due to the low contrast of the terrain but several narrow, dark and branching features which are suggestive of channels can be discerned.
The view at left consists of five images that have been added together and enhanced to bring out surface detail and to reduce noise, though some camera artifacts remain.
These images were taken using a filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 938 nanometers – considered to be the Imaging Science Subsystem’s best spectral filter for observing the surface of Titan. This view was acquired from a distance of 40,000 kilometers (24,900 miles). The pixel scale of this image is 470 meters (0.3 miles) per pixel, although the actual resolution is likely to be several times larger.
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.