Image: Titan
NASA / SSI
A composite image, based on infrared data sent back from the Cassini orbiter over the past week, shows a different side of the Saturnian moon Titan.
msnbc.com
updated 4/6/2005 9:07:49 PM ET 2005-04-07T01:07:49

The Cassini probe has sent back a fresh cloud-piercing perspective on Titan, Saturn's largest and most mysterious moon, in the wake of last week's close approach.

The new imagery reveals territory not previously seen at such close resolution by Cassini's cameras, NASA said in Wednesday's image release. The view is a composite of four nearly identical wide-angle camera images, all taken using an infrared filter designed to emphasize features usually hidden beneath Titan's global hydrocarbon smog.

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 radar observations that Cassini made last October and in February.

At large scales, there are similarities between the views taken by the imaging cameras and the radar system, but there also are differences. For example, the center of the floor of a 50-mile-wide (80-kilometer-wide) crater, identified by the radar team in February, appears relatively bright in the radar imagery but dark in the infrared view. This difference is also apparent for some of the surrounding material and could indicate differences in surface composition or roughness.

Such comparisons are important in trying to understand the nature of Titan's surface materials, NASA said.

The images for this composite view were taken with the Cassini spacecraft on March 31, from distances ranging from about 81,000 to 91,000 miles (130,000 to 146,000 kilometers). The image scale is 5 miles (8 kilometers) per pixel.

The international Cassini probe entered Saturnian orbit last July and is due to map the ringed planet and its moons during a four-year primary mission. For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit NASA's Web site and the Cassini imaging team's Web site.

This report was based on information from NASA.

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