Titan is one of the primary scientific objectives of the NASA-ESA-ASI Cassini-Huygens mission. Scattering by haze particles in Titan's atmosphere and numerous methane absorptions dramatically veil Titan's surface in the visible range, though it can be studied more easily in some narrow infrared windows. The Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) instrument onboard the Cassini spacecraft successfully imaged its surface in the atmospheric windows, taking hyperspectral images in the range 0.4-5.2 ??m. On 26 October (TA flyby) and 13 December 2004 (TB flyby), the Cassini-Huygens mission flew over Titan at an altitude lower than 1200 km at closest approach. We report here on the analysis of VIMS images of the Huygens landing site acquired at TA and TB, with a spatial resolution ranging from 16 to14.4 km/pixel. The pure atmospheric backscattering component is corrected by using both an empirical method and a first-order theoretical model. Both approaches provide consistent results. After the removal of scattering, ratio images reveal subtle surface heterogeneities. A particularly contrasted structure appears in ratio images involving the 1.59 and 2.03 ??m images north of the Huygens landing site. Although pure water ice cannot be the only component exposed at Titan's surface, this area is consistent with a local enrichment in exposed water ice and seems to be consistent with DISR/Huygens images and spectra interpretations. The images show also a morphological structure that can be interpreted as a 150 km diameter impact crater with a central peak. ?? 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Cassini/VIMS hyperspectral observations of the HUYGENS landing site on Titan