Astronomy Picture of the Day
August 15, 2014

New Impact Crater on Titan? (Part I)
New Impact Crater on Titan? (Part I)

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

Like we mentioned in yesterday's APOD, as the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft sped away from Titan following a relatively close Fly-By, its cameras monitored the moon's North Polar Regions, capturing signs of renewed Cloud Activity. In fact, the Cassini Scientists noted a decrease in Clouds everywhere on Titan after a large Storm that occurred on this moon during the AD 2010, and then expected the Clouds to return sooner in the Titanian Skies (note: this - obviously wrong - assumption was based on a computer model of Titan's restless Atmosphere). After examining several pictures taken in sequence by the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft in the time-period between the 20 and the 22 of July 2014, the Cassini Science Team was able to make some measurements relevant to the Cloud Motions and these measurements indicated an average Wind Speed of about 7 to 10 miles-per-hour (such as from approx. 11,26 to 16,09 Km-per-hour).


A more attentive and continuous monitoring of these Regions of Titan should help the Cassini Scientists to determine if this specific Clouds' appearance signals the beginning of some kind of Summer Weather Patterns, or if it is just an isolated event. A streak of (probably) Methane-rich Clouds can be seen here, near the lower left (Sx) corner of the frame, and right over the large Titanian Methane Sea known as Ligeia Mare.


Last, but certainly not least, a possible Fresh Impact Crater (and we wish to remind you that Impact Features are EXTREMELY RARE on Titan!) might have (recently, maybe) formed in the Northern Regions of this fascinating Saturnian Natural Satellite that has been pictured here. This possible Impact Feature is WELL visible at about 7/8 o'clock of the frame, and, just to be very precise, it has also been indicated by a small Red Arrow.


We, as IPF, examined several pictures of this very same area (actually, all the ones which are available to the General Public) and we noticed that the aforementioned (and, perhaps, controversial) Surface Feature is always visible and its position changed, as to the Observer, in full accordance with the motion of the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft (which took the pictures in sequence). This single element is sufficient, in our humble opinion, to rule out the possibility that the Feature that we are talking about is just an Image Artifact. In fact, it could (and should) reasonably be a real Surface Feature and, in particular, a (relatively) fresh Impact Crater which, as far as we know, has never been seen (better yet: noticed) in this area before.


This frame (which is an Original NASA - CASSINI Spacecraft's b/w Original image published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 18420) 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 Enhanced Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a VERY SHARP human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft and then looked outside, towards the North Polar Regions of 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 and Minerals) which are present, respectvely, in the Atmosphere and Surface of Titan, and each having (and showing) a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.


Note: it is possible (but we, as IPF, have no way to be 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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