Side-by-side comparisons of a traditional Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar view (left) and one made using the new technique. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)
During 10 years of discovery, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has pulled back the smoggy veil that obscures the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Thanks to a recently developed technique for handling noise in Cassini's radar images, these views now have a whole new look. The technique, referred to by its developers as "despeckling," produces images of Titan's surface that are much clearer and easier to look at.

Typically, Cassini's radar images have a characteristic grainy appearance. This "speckle noise" can make it difficult for scientists to interpret small-scale features or identify changes in images of the same area taken at different times. Despeckling uses an algorithm to modify the noise, resulting in clearer views that can be easier for researchers to interpret.

Despeckling Cassini's radar images has a variety of scientific benefits, including the ability to produce 3D maps, called digital elevation maps, of Titan's surface with greatly improved quality. With clearer views of river channels, lake shorelines, and windswept dunes, researchers are also able to perform more precise analyses of processes shaping Titan's surface.