Titan surface map at wavelength 1.575 micron (ESO VLT + NACO/SDI)
Four SDI-NACO Images
VLT looks through narrow atmospheric window and produces most detailed images yet New images of unsurpassed clarity have been obtained with the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) of formations on the surface of Titan, the largest moon in the Saturnian system. They were made by an international research team  during recent commissioning observations with the "Simultaneous Differential Imager (SDI)", a novel optical device, just installed at the NACO Adaptive Optics instrument .
With the high-contrast SDI camera, it is possible to obtain extremely sharp images in three colours simultaneously. Although mainly conceived for exoplanet imaging, this device is also very useful for observations of objects with thick atmospheres in the solar system like Titan. Peering at the same time through a narrow, unobscured near-infrared spectral window in the dense methane atmosphere and an adjacent non-transparent waveband, images were obtained that are virtually uncontaminated by atmospheric components. They map the reflectivity of a large number of surface features in unprecedented detail.
The images show a number of surface regions with very different reflectivity. Of particular interest are several large "dark" areas of uniformly low reflectivity. One possible interpretation is that they represent huge surface reservoirs of liquid hydrocarbonates.
Richard West | alfa
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