Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Saturn Moon: Titan Reveals Surprisingly Earth-Like Features

Global mosaic of Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) images acquired during the nominal and equinox Cassini mission. 

Differences in composition translate into subtle differences of colors in this mosaic, revealing the diversity of terrains on Titan, such as the brownish equatorial dune fields or the bright, elevated terrains.

CREDIT: JPL/NASA/Univ. of Arizona/CNRS/LPGNantes

After meticulously stitching together images that were gathered over six years by a NASA spacecraft in orbit around Saturn, astronomers have created a global map of the surface of Titan, the ringed planet's largest moon, and it features some surprisingly Earth-like geological features.

An international team of astronomers, led by the University of Nantes in France, created the striking mosaic of Titan's surface using infrared images taken by the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

The global map and animations were presented Tuesday (Oct. 4) at the European Planetary Science Congress and the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Science in Nantes, France. [See global map and video of Titan's surface]

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