Astronomy Picture of the Day
January 10, 2013

Northern Lakes
Northern Lakes

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell and Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF for the additional process. and color.

The Lakes existing on the Saturnian moon Titan, reflect Radio Waves in varying ways, as it can be noticed in this Radio-Image obtained by the the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft. Scientists think the variations in Reflectivity, or Brightness, have to be related with the smoothness (such as the so-called "texture") of the imaged Surface. However, if a Lake is fully liquid, it always looks VERY dark (actually black); but if it is only partially liquid, then it looks a lot brighter. In this frame, taken from Titan's High Northern Latitudes (such as at approx. 79° North Latitude and 58° West Longitude) on May, 22, 2012, the Lakes located on on the left (Sx) side of it are full of Liquid Hydrocarbons, while the ones - barely visible - located on the top right (Dx) of the picture are only partially filled - it has to be said, however, that what can be seen on the right side of the frame, could even be the representation of simple Saturated Ground (---> a Surface Feature - or, better yet, a Surface "Condition" - known as "Mudflat" ---> Mudflats or Mud Flats, also known as Tidal Flats, are Coastal Wetlands that form when huge quantities of Mud are deposited by the action of Oceanic Tides or particularly fast-flowing Rivers).


The Lakes visible in this image are each about 35 to 45 Km (such as approx. 22 to 30 miles) across, or about the size of Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada Border. Some of the differences in Reflectivity could also be explained by the presence, in the Lakes, of floating blocks of Hydrocarbon Ice. The image was obtained by the Cassini Radar Mapper at a scale of about 350 meters (1100 feet) per pixel.


This frame (which is a crop obtained by an Original NASA - CASSINI Spacecraft Radio-Image published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the n. PIA 16635), since it is just a Radio-Image of the Titanian Surface and NOT a real view of it, has been colorized, according to an educated guess, by Dr Paolo C. Fienga (LXTT-IPF), in what they could reasonably be its possible Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - CASSINI Spacecraft and, once the thick layer of Titanian Hazes and Fogs shall have been completely overcome, looked down, towards the Surface of Titan itself), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team.



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