‘Despeckle it!’ NASA gets clearest views of Titan yet (PHOTOS)

Image from nasa.gov
Researchers have developed a new method for viewing images of the Earth-like landscape of Titan, by despeckling dark and grainy images from the Cassini spacecraft. River channels and shorelines are seen in the pictures of Saturn's biggest moon.

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Titan has been of particular interest to scientists, due to its remarkable likeness to Earth. The large moon is said to resemble a frozen Earth from billions of years ago. A new image processing algorithm has produced the clearest images of the moon to date.

Trying to analyze its surface has so far proven tricky, because Cassini radar images have been dark and grainy due to the moon’s thick atmosphere and orange clouds.

The images “aren’t visible light photographs, but rather maps made from bouncing radar off of Titan’s surface,” NASA wrote on its website.

The graininess – or “speckle noise” – made it difficult to interpret small features or identify changes in an area over time. But now, by using the new algorithm, scientists are capable of ‘despeckling’ the images and creating high-definition pictures of the moon’s striking terrain.

The clearer views also give scientists an opportunity to perform more precise analysis on the processes shaping Titan’s changing landscape.

“This new technique provides a fresh look at the data, which helps us better understand the original images,” said Stephen Wall, deputy team lead of Cassini's radar team. “With this innovative new tool, we will look for details that help us to distinguish among the different processes that shape Titan's surface.”

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NASA also recently announced that a team has developed a concept for sending a submarine to explore Titan’s mysterious Kracken Mare by 2040. The submarine would be able to sustain a 90-day, 2,000 kilometer journey to the depths of the methane sea.

Titan, the second largest moon in the solar system, is the only object other than Earth where such large quantities of liquids have been found.