Astronomy Picture of the Day
December 3, 2013

Night all around the Vortex
Night all around the Vortex

Credits: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF

The Sunlit Edge of Titan's South Polar Vortex stands out distinctly against the darkness of the moon's unilluminated Hazy Atmosphere. The pictures of the Vortex (we mean frames just like, or very similar to, this one) which were so far taken by the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft led the Community of Planetary Scientists to the conclusion (let us just add "obvious") that the Clouds forming the Vortex itself are positioned at a much higher altitude - such as at an altitude where the Sunlight can still reach them - than the Haze which surrounds them.

This view looks toward the Trailing Hemisphere of Titan; North is up and rotated 32° to the left. The image was taken with the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft Narrow-Angle Camera on July 14, 2013 using a Spectral Filter sensitive to Wavelengths of Near-InfraRed Light centered at 938 nanometers. The image was obtained at a distance of approximately 808.000 miles (such as about 1,3 Million KiloMeters) from Titan, and at a Sun-Titan-Cassini Spacecraft (or Phase) Angle of 82°. Image scale here is roughly 5 miles (such as about 8,04 Km) per pixel.

This frame (which is an Original NASA - Cassini Spacecraft b/w frame published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 17139) has been additionally processed, contrast enhanced, magnified to aid visibility of the details, Gamma corrected and then colorized, according to an educated guess carried out by Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF, in what they should be its Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft and then looked outside, towards the Saturnian moon Titan), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team. Different colors, as well as different shades of the same color, mean, among others, the existence of different Elements present in the Atmosphere of Titan, each having a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.

Note: it is possible (but we, as IPF, have no way to be one-hundred-percent sure of such a circumstance), that the actual luminosity of Titan - as it is in this frame - would appear, to an average human eye, a little bit lower than it has been shown (or, better yet: interpreted) here.

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