October 7, 2011
What draws me to Titan is the mystery. After 50 years of robotic exploration most other objects in the solar system have given up their secrets, at least to a first order. But Saturn’s largest moon is hidden by a perpetual cloud cover, so we have to work harder to see what’s underneath.
Which is why I find maps like this so appealing. A research team led by the University of Nantes in France stitched together six years’ worth of infrared images taken by the Cassini spacecraft over the course of 70 Titan flybys to produce a global mosaic. Because infrared penetrates the clouds, the surface is revealed. In this false-color composite, highlands appear bright and equatorial dune fields appear dark.
The mosaic varies in resolution, depending on how close Cassini was to the surface at the time a particular image was taken. But some of the fuzzy areas will get sharper. Another 48 Titan flybys are planned between now and 2017.
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