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Emily LakdawallaDecember 13, 2006

Cassini VIMS and RADAR: a cryovolcano on Titan?

Yesterday, the VIMS team released several images from Cassini's "T20" flyby of Titan, which took place on October 20. Several of the images are combined with RADAR data. The features visible on Titan's surface in images from individual instruments can be really puzzling to interpret. Combining data from two instruments can help scientists understand better what exactly they're looking at.

I've got some questions out to some VIMS people about how to interpret what the images show, but I thought I'd tease you here with one tiny bit from one of the images:

Cassini RADAR and VIMS view of a possible cryovolcano on Titan

NASA / JPL-Caltech / U. Arizona

Cassini RADAR and VIMS view of a possible cryovolcano on Titan
This animation compares two views of a small crater-like feature on Titan, captured with Cassini's RADAR and VIMS instruments. The RADAR view shows a bright circular feature about 10 kilometers in diameter with a fan of material spraying to the northeast. The color VIMS view overlaid on top shows that the fan has sharply different color to the background. Furthermore, the boundaries of the fan are very sharp. These two characteristics suggest that the fan is a deposit of solid material that originated from the small circular feature, which may be a cryovolcano.

The VIMS team issued a press release about these photos, and in it my favorite volcanologist Rosaly Lopes commented on this feature: "The evidence is mounting that this circular feature is a volcano," said Dr. Rosaly Lopes, Cassini radar team member at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "With radar data alone, we identified it as a possible volcano, but the combination of radar and infrared makes it much clearer.

Read more: Cassini, Titan, Saturn's moons, radar imaging

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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