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Scientists reveal Titanic panorama

Fab Huygens composite images

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New views of Titan are becoming available now that the Cassini-Huygens image analysis teams have had some time to to examine and interpret the probe's photographic data.

The Descent Imager Spectral Radiometer (DISR) captured a long series of photographs as the lander fell towards the surface. The DISR team, which draws on expertise from scientific institutions around the world, has now combined these images, like a jigsaw, to produce different types of views of the surface.

Stereographic projection of Titan's surface seen from Huygens

A stereographic image, for example, resembles an image viewed through a fish-eye lens, and is the same kind of projection as that used to render the Earth's sphere flat for atlases. A gnomonic image, meanwhile, tends to make the surface appear flat, and is used by navigators and aviators in determining the shortest distance between two points. There is a lot of distortion of scale at the edges of a gnomonic view, however.

Current interpretation of the stereographic image (left) is that the brighter areas to the north is higher than the rest of the terrain. The dark lines covering the bright area are thought to be drainage channels cut by flows of liquid methane. Scientists think that some were produced by rainfall run-off, and others by sub-surface flows.

The flows lead down to a shoreline which scientists think has river deltas and sandbars, all familiar geographical features from home.

The brighter shapes to the north east, meanwhile, are thought to be ridges of ice gravel.

There are more images here. ®

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