A recent image-processing method is presenting Saturn's largest moon, Titan, into clearer view than ever before. More than 10 years of observations by the Cassini probe have charted nearly half of the Titan’s surface. The NASA probe, which is orbiting the Saturn system, has revealed the biggest dune fields in the entire known solar system and hydrocarbon seas that grow and shrink with the periods on Titan. But now, according to the space agency, new enhancements in image processing have made the radar images look better than ever. Any image is going to enclose some amount of noise, which normally displays itself as a grainy, speckle like form. But this noise makes it hard for researchers to spot small features or detect variations across the images.
|Original and modified photos of Ligeia Mare, a hydrocarbon sea on Titan. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI|
The rough appearance of the images bothered Antoine Lucas, at the astrophysics division of France's nuclear center. He said in a statement "Noise in the images gave me a headache," So Lucas dug through work published in the mathematics community (a little far removed from those working in scientific research) and learned that a group of researchers near Paris was working on just what he required: a de-noising algorithm. Lucas worked carefully with that team to use their algorithm to the Cassini radar data, and it has made all the difference, he said. "My headaches were gone, and more importantly, we were able to go further in our understanding of Titan's surface using the new technique," Lucas said.
As it stands, the method, called despeckling, needs a lot of computation. So the radar team is going to have to select which images deserve special treatment in getting the additional algorithm.
Stephen Wall, deputy team leader of Cassini's radar team, which is located at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said “Even so, it's a great start that provides a new look at the data, which helps us better understand the original pictures. With this innovative new tool, we will look for details that help us to distinguish among the different processes that shape Titan's surface."