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Ted StrykFebruary 28, 2013

Mysterious Umbriel

Umbriel, a moon of Uranus, is about 1200 kilometers across. It is less reflective than the planet's other moons, except for mysterious bright features: one seen on the rim of what appears to be a crater, and the central peak of another. It was imaged by Voyager 2 in January of 1986, at a resolution of 10 kilometers per pixel in the two images snapped at closest approach. Unfortunately, one of the images was underexposed and slightly smeared, and the other was properly exposed but very smeared.

My processing of the images a few years ago, which can be seen here, was focused around desmearing and bringing out detail. This is all well and good, but the artifacts from such processing made it, well, ugly. While there are other views that include more images and were less smeared/underexposed, they were much more distant, making them frustratingly small. I decided to start from scratch, reprocessing the two highest resolution frames, combining them at 125% of their original size, and creating a color overlay from more distant images. Having refined some of the techniques I used in 2009 and trying to avoid overextending the processing, I have created a version that is much more beautiful and perhaps gives us an idea what Umbriel really looks like.

Umbriel (2013 version)

NASA / JPL / Ted Stryk

Umbriel (2013 version)
This view of Umbriel was composed by stacking Voyager 2's best two images of it, and coloring it using images taken from a greater distance.

Since it will be at least another decade, and probably much more, before we see Umbriel close up again, it is unlikely to give up its secrets any time soon.

See also: What do we know about Uranus' moons? Part 1 and Part 2.

Read more: pretty pictures, amateur image processing, Voyager 1 and 2, Uranus' moons

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Ted Stryk

Professor of philosophy and amateur image processor for Roane State Community College
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