Astronomy Picture of the Day
June 3, 2014

Still Active and Illuminated!
Still Active and Illuminated!

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

Titan's South Polar Vortex still stands illuminated where all else is in deep shadow. Based on that observation, Planetary Scientists deduced that the Vortex must extend higher into Titan's Upper Atmosphere than the surrounding Clouds because it is still lit and well visible in images like this one. Although the South Polar Regions of Titan are now in Winter (and therefore, for most of time, in the darkness), the Sun can still reach high Atmospherical Features like the Vortex itself. However, and given all that notwithstanding, the question about the true nature of the South Polar Vortex (such as Seasonal or, even though this possibility might seem unlikely, Permanent) remains still unanswered.

This view looks toward the Saturn-facing Hemisphere of Titan; North is up and rotated 32° to the right (Dx). The image was taken with the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft Wide-Angle Camera on February, 3, 2014 using a Spectral Filter which preferentially admits Wavelengths of Near-InfraRed Light, centered at 742 nanometers. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 134.000 miles (such as a little more than 215.651 Km) from the Surface of Titan. Image scale is roughly 8 miles (meaning about 12,87 Km) per picture element (pixel).

This frame (which is an Original NASA - CASSINI Spacecraft's b/w and NON Map-Projected image published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 17169) has been additionally processed, contrast enhanced, magnified to aid the visibility of the details, Gamma corrected and then colorized - according to an educated guess (or, if you wish, an informed speculation) carried out by Dr Paolo C. Fienga - in 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 other things, the existence of different Elements (Gases) 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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