Saturn’s moons as you’ve never seen them before! By day, Dr. Paul Schenk works at the Lunar and Planetary Institute mapping the topography and geology of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, as well as the icy bodies of the outer solar system. But because “it’s just plain cool,” he has created some flyover videos of Saturn’s satellites, using data from the Cassini spacecraft. Very cool, indeed! Above is a close-up, 3-D look at the walnut-shaped moon Iapetus. Scientists don’t know why there is a ridge along the moon’s equator, but in 2007, Cassini acquired a strip of color and stereo images along the ridge, and Schenk has created a flyover which shows the contrast in color and topography. There are “sharp peaks 15 to 20 kilometers above the surrounding dark cratered plains,” Schenk writes. “These are among the highest peaks in the Solar System. Patches of bright pure water ice can be seen flanking these dark peaks, which have the brightness of soot.”
And there’s more! Below is one of my favorites from Schenk’s collection of flyover videos, 3-D views of Inktomi, a very young crater on the moon Rhea.
Schenk’s videos are based on Cassini orbiter stereo and color imaging data. “Basically stereo image pairs or mosaics are calibrated and formatted and then a computer algorithm is applied which measures the displacement of features from which their heights are calculated,” Schenk told Universe Today, describing how he creates the videos. “When assembled you have a terrain model, voila!”
These videos take awhile to put together. “To run the computer model can take an hour or so or a full day depending on the size of the area and image,” Schenk said. “Typically I require several hours for this to run. The real time consuming part for us with the Cassini data is the calibration and registration of the original raw images. This can take days, if not weeks, to get the calibrations right if you want an accurate map.”
Here’s another spectacular video, of Enceladus, specifically a closeup of Damascus Sulcus, one of the known jet source locations on the moon’s “tiger stripe” fractures:
Schenk just recently had a book published an atlas of Jupiter’s moon, “Atlas of the Galilean Satellites,” published by Cambridge University Press. Description: Celebrating the 400th anniversary of their discovery in January and the announcement of that discovery (Sidereus Nuncius) in March of 1610. Here you will find details about this definitive new Volume, a valuable reference & resource for the Jupiter system.
Hat tip: Stu Atkinson