Astronomy Picture of the Day
April 8, 2014

Approaching Ariel
Approaching Ariel

Credits: NASA/JPL - Voyager 2 Project - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF

Distinct Bright Patches (Water Ice-rich Regions - in our opinion, as IPF) are already very well visible on the Surface of the Uranian moon Ariel, even from a grat distance. Ariel is the brightest of Uranus' five largest Natural Satellites (the others being Umbriel, Titania, Oberon and Miranda). The NASA - Voyager 2 Spacecraft  obtained this image on January 22, 1986, from a distance of about 2,52 Million KiloMeters (such as approx. 1.564.920 Million miles) from Ariel itself. This Clear-Filter image, obtained with the Narrow-Angle Camera onboard the Spacecraft, has a Resolution of approx. 47 Km (such as about 29,187 miles) per pixel.

Ariel is about 1300 Km (approx. 807,3 miles) in diameter and this picture, as we already wrote herebefore, shows us several distinct Bright Areas that reflect nearly 45% (45-per-cent) of the Incident Sunlight; to better understand this peculiarity of Ariel, you have to consider that this Uranian moon displays an average Albedo (---> Reflectivity) of about 25-30% (twenty-five-to-thirty-per-cent). The Bright Areas, also according to NASA's Planetary Scientists, are probably made of (relatively) fresh Water Ice, perhaps excavated (---> unearthed) by Meteoric Impacts.

The South Pole of Ariel is slightly off center of the disk in this view. Just out of curiosity, the NASA - Voyager 2 Spacecraft  obtained its best views of the "pitted" Surface of Ariel on January 24, 1986, during its closest-approach and from a distance of approx. 127.000 Km (such as about 78.867 miles) from the Surface of this fascinating (and still mostly unknown) Celestial Object.

This frame (which is an Original NASA - Voyager 2 Spacecraft b/w frame published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 01351) has been additionally processed, contrast enhanced, magnified to aid visibility of the Surface details and then colorized in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Voyager 2 Spacecraft and then looked outside, towards the Uranian moon Ariel), 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 on the Surface of Ariel, 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 Ariel - as it is in this frame - would appear, to an average human eye, way lower than it has been shown (or, better yet: interpreted) here.

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