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Surprise the 4,000-mile "ice rink" found on Saturn's moon Titan

Easy PCA

The new technique is called Principal Component Analysis (PCA), and could be a watershed for Titan-ophiles. Instead of examining the individual pixels of the Cassini photos and scouring them for details and data, the PCA examines all pixels in a particular area to detect trends in the landscape. This not only results in more refined data, but also becomes much less time consuming than the main alternatives, which need to go one pixel at a time.

To test their new tool, and try to answer questions about why some fragments of ice are exposed first, the international team of researchers applied the PCA on half the surface of Titan, from 30 ° S to 30 ° N. tropics, in part because there were already relatively good data from this area, including Huygens lander first-hand. This facilitated verification of results.

Since everything was correlated and indeed found to be accurate, the team was left with a high-definition distribution of water ice on Titan. And interestingly, the authors write, it has formed into a remarkable standard. "Our PCA study indicates that water ice is uneven, but not randomly, exposed on Titan's tropical surface. Most of the exposed ice-rich material follows a long almost linear corridor that stretches for 6,300 kilometers, or nearly 6,000 miles (6,400 km). That's about 40% of the Titan's entire circumference. And, for reference, the United States stretches less than 4,800 miles from coast to coast.

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