Studying Titan’s surface photometry in the 5 microns atmospheric window with the Cassini/VIMS instrument
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Due to the influence of methane gas and a thick aerosols haze in the atmosphere, Titan's surface is only visible in 7 spectral atmospheric windows centered at 0.93, 1.08, 1.27, 1.59, 2.01, 2.7-2.8 and 5 microns with the Cassini Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS). The 5 microns atmospheric window constitutes the only one being almost insensitive to the haze scattering and which presents only a reduced atmospheric absorption contribution to the signal recorded by the instrument. Despite these advantages leading to the almost direct view of the surface, the 5 microns window is also the noisiest spectral window of the entire VIMS spectrum (an effect highly dependent on the time exposure used for the observations), and it is not totally free from atmospheric contributions, enough to keep “artefacts” in mosaics of several thousands of cubes due to atmospheric and surface photometric effects amplified by the very heterogeneous viewing conditions between each Titan flyby. At first order, a lambertian surface photometry at 5 microns has been used as an initial parameter in order to estimate atmospheric opacity and surface photometry in all VIMS atmospheric windows and to determine the albedo of the surface, yet unknown, both using radiative transfer codes on single cubes or empirical techniques on global hyperspectral mosaics. Other studies suggested that Titan's surface photometry would not be uniquely lambertian but would also contain anisotropic lunar-like contributions. In the present work, we aim at constraining accurately the surface photometry of Titan and residual atmospheric absorption effects in this 5 microns window using a comprehensive study of relevant sites located at various latitudes. Those include bright and dark (dunes) terrains, 5-microns bright terrains (Hotei Regio and Tui Regio), the Huygens Landing Site and high latitudes polar lakes and seas. The VIMS 2004 to 2014 database, composed of more than 40,000 hyperspectral cubes acquired on Titan, has been decomposed into a MySQL relational database in order to perform the present study looking at both spatial and temporal (seasonal) aspects.