Astronomy Picture of the Day
April 9, 2014

Ariel's closest-approach (CTX Frame)
Ariel's closest-approach (CTX Frame)

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

This image-mosaic obrained by putting together the four Highest-Resolution images of Ariel represents the most detailed NASA - Voyager 2 Spacecraf portrait of this Natural Satellite of Uranus. The images were taken through the Clear Filter of the NASA - Voyager 2 Spacecraf Narrow-Angle Camera on January, 24, 1986, at a distance of about 130.000 Km (such as approx 80.730 miles) from the Surface of Ariel.

Ariel is about 1200 Km (approx. 745,2 miles) in diameter; the Resolution here is about 2,4 Km (such as approx. 1,49 miles) per pixel. Most of Ariel's Surface is densely pitted with ancient Impact Craters ranging from 5 to 10 km (such as about 3,1 to 6,21 miles) across and these Craters are close to the threshold (---> the magnitude that must be exceeded in order to see them) of detection in this picture. Numerous Valleys and Fault Scarps crisscross the highly pitted Terrain. The Voyager Planetary Scientists believe that the Valleys have formed over down-dropped Fault Blocks (---> Graben) and, apparently, some extensive Faulting has occurred all over the moon as a result of (a relatively fast) expansion and stretching of Ariel's Crust.

The largest Fault Valleys, located near the Terminator Line - to the right (Dx) of the frame -, as well as a Smooth Region - visible near the center of the image -, have been partly filled with Deposits that are younger and less heavily Cratered than the pitted Terrain. Furthermore, several narrow, and, somewhat, sinuous Scarps and Valleys formed, in turn, in these aforementioned young Deposits. It is not yet clear whether these sinuous Surface Features have been formed by Faulting or - maybe - by the Flow of (some kind of) Fluids.

This picture (which is an Original NASA - Voyager 2 Spacecraft b/w image-mosaic published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 015534) 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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