"After flying 2
billion miles, a probe to Saturn's moon will attempt what has never been
tried before. The Huygens' probe will plunge into Titan and its mysterious
atmosphere on Jan. 14, 2005...Joined...for the last seven years, Cassini
and Huygens finally separated Dec. 24 PST after a...2.2 billion mile...
journey through our solar system. While the Cassini spacecraft continues
its four-year tour of the Saturnian system, the Huygens probe will plunge
into Titan and its mysterious atmosphere on Jan. 14, 2005. " --
"On Friday, Jan.
14, the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Huygens probe is scheduled to
descend through the mysterious atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan…Huygens
descends into Titan's atmosphere (Descent begins 5 a.m. EST)…Huygens
mission duration of 153 minutes, corresponding to a maximum descent time
of 2.5 hours plus at least 3 additional minutes (and possibly a half hour
or more) on Titan's surface...During its descent, Huygens' camera will
capture more than 1,100 images, while the Probe's other five instruments
will sample Titan's atmosphere and determine its composition…Data from
Huygens will be relayed to the Cassini Orbiter passing overhead. The data
will be stored onboard Cassini's Solid State recorders (SSR) for playback
to Earth…...NASA TV/webcast will carry ESA TV during the Titan
events...Check the TV schedule for full details (all times listed are in
Eastern Time). " -- NASA Cassini-Huygens Mission
The live multi-session
web cast began at midnight on
Friday, Jan. 14, 2005, ending mid afternoon, alternately switching between
broadcasting from both the European Space Agency (ESA) and Jet Propulsion Lab
(JPL) Mission Control Centers. To monitor the events remotely by computer,
I set up the ad hoc software control panel "Dashboard" pictured above
- the upper left panel is the NASA TV display switching between ESA
& JPL, to the right of which are the ESA descent
sequence event & NASA TV
broadcast timelines, while the windows bottom right provide links to other
NASA TV sources as well as a view through the ESA Mission Control WebCam.
As the webcast began, the
Huygens probe, which had separated from the Cassini spacecraft the
previous Christmas, had traveled to within a few thousand kilometers of
Saturn's moon Titan. At 2 a.m. the descent sequence of operations began,
which was expected to take around 150 minutes to reach the surface. The
Wok-shaped probe deftly executed the sequence of operations, which started
with entering the upper atmosphere, followed by a series of parachute
deployments, onboard scientific equipment & camera activation's,
ending in the final approach with switching on "headlights",
then touchdown. Success at each maneuver was measured by detecting a
signal sent by the craft, the continual reception of which caused numerous
jumps for joy at ESA
The execution was so flawless that even the effective time on the ground,
which was expected to be only a few minutes or at the most .5 -2 hours,
saw the probe continuing to transmit well over 2.5 hours. The high point
of the mission came when the probe, which had taken numerous scientific
measurements and photographs on the way down, and also at the touchdown
site, began transmitting data around sunrise here, arriving before noon
and including the first stunning pictures. The very first picture, rather
than depicting a familiar cratered and rocky surface, instead portrayed a
scene very reminiscent of Earth, a hilly area crisscrossed with numerous
stream channels running downhill to a shoreline beyond which lay
islands. The second picture resembled areas of Montana where, off
flat planes rise rugged mountains peppered with tall columnar buttes.
Scientists noted that this truly alien world did not appear dead but
rather was an active surface interacting with its atmosphere. To document
& summarize the presentations in pictures, taken from print screens of
the webcast, the sessions would begin with a splash screen from the Space
then switch to Mission Control, either ESA (one,
or JPL (one,
When Huygens reached Titan,
the probe worked out its descent trajectory,
then began executing its descent sequence events, with milestones reported
at several news briefings (fullscreen,
As the "big event", downloading Huygens data, approached,
the waiting was intense (one,
with it's timely arrival a cause for jubilation
at Mission Control & at the Briefing (one,
Excitement, wonder & awe reached a peak when the download
splash screen introduced the 1st
picture from Titan, taken during the descent
profile , en route to the landing
site. Additional pictures, with more coming, including
some in stereo/3D
Phobe), can be found on the Cassini-Huygens
websites at ESA,
Also, as noted on the ESA Portal, "...Sounds heard by Huygens' microphones...taken at different times during the
descent...what a traveller on board Huygens would have heard...", can be
listened to at the
"Sounds of an alien
world" website. The
Huygens Instruments package is described in detail on the ESA
Huygens instruments web page. A 1st summary of what's been learned will be
contained in an ESA
1/21 results update report press conference from ESA HQ in Paris at
11am CET (3am PST)*, carried over ESA
TV & NASA TV live
streaming webcast (schedule).
During the course of
the unfolding Titan mission presentations, several striking public outreach works of space art
and music were introduced. The BBC's "Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets"
uses impressive computer graphics in telling the story of a team of
astronauts engaged in a grand tour of the Solar System as we know it today
(the story is available in European Union countries on DVD).
"Music2Titan" is a
number of modern musical compositions making up a soundtrack for the
mission, commissioned utilizing talented French musicians, with the songs placed
on a CD mounted in the Huygens probe, now resting upon Titan at the Huygens
landing site, as reported in ESA
songs available from iTunes Music2Titan page (screen
song mp3; URL
(requires iTunes for Mac + PC
Near the end of the presentation ESA/JPL ran a sneak-preview animation of
an exotic future Titan mission - a slowly roving aerial platform in
the form of a blimp, which raises and lowers, by tether, a tractor-treaded
robotic rover, dropping off and picking up the vehicle while leisurely
cruising Titan's environs (Aerover Blimp).
The stunning success
of the mission, 25 years in the making, involving several of the world's
top space agencies, and including participation by 19 countries, was
hailed as the greatest multinational space exploration project in human
history to date.
(pop down left frame "Watch The Event" menu)
3D/Stereo images (see also 12/01/05)
"Mike Zawistowski has created a 3D rendering of Titan to
provide us with an approximate rendering of what Titan might
look like, based on the actual data, created with
Terragen. Note that the coloring in the [1st picture]...is
a...better, more realistic color scheme ..[the 2nd]...has a
noticed that some of the images have been taken within a short
time interval. He has selected two images that you can use to
view Titan in stereo. Look at the following image, but focus
your eyes such that the images collide into a new, 3d image.
You'll see that the dark mountain range in the middle of the
image sits in front the of the other mountains behind it."
submitter has sent in the following anaglyph, so you can view
titan with red/blue glasses, in stereo."
rendered" --anthony.liekens.net "Have you seen Titan?"
"On Titan there are Methane rivers...and probably lakes...if you were
a surfer, you'd find the waves were 20-30 feet high...[also]...it rains
Methane...but due to the very different conditions there [gravity, atmospheric
pressure, temperature)...raindrops are the size of marbles... but fall at
the speed of snowflakes...", Jeff Cuzzi, NASA-ESA Cassini-Huygens Planetary Rings
"Exploring the Lord of the Rings: Cassini at
Saturn" --Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Foothill College January 26, 2005
"Winds on Titan are found to be flowing in the direction of Titan's rotation (from west to east) at nearly all altitudes. The maximum speed of roughly 120 metres per second (430 km/h) was measured about ten minutes after the start of the descent, at an altitude of about 120 km. The winds are weak near the surface and increase slowly with altitude up to about 60 km...."
"First measurement of Titan’s winds from
"...Titan Mosaic...made from 16 images. The individual images have
been specially processed to remove effects of Titan's hazy atmosphere
and to improve visibility of the surface..."..."
Mosaic - Feb 2005"
"Cassini Radar Titan Movie...strips of data...the blue area represents the
coverage observed during the Feb. 15 flyby. The movie zooms into several
interesting areas on Titan, including a giant crater the size of Iowa,
an area with bright hills and ridges surrounded by a dark plain, and a
smaller crater with a blanket of material surrounding it, possibly due
to ejected material being thrown out of the crater after an impact....."
Radar Titan Movie"
"...Titan, has a surface shaped largely by Earth-like processes of
tectonics, erosion, winds, and perhaps volcanism...Among the new
discoveries is what may be a long river, roughly 1,500 kilometers long
Images of Titan Reveal an Active, Earth-like World"
"...Cassini Continues Inspection of Smoggy Moon...Cassini flew by
Titan on March 31. Its multiple instruments continue to provide new
views of the haze-enshrouded world..."
Continues Inspection of Smoggy Moon", "New
"...During a close flyby of Titan on March 31, 2005, Cassini's
cameras got their best view to date of the region east of the bright
Xanadu Region...the images...reveal new features...Within the bright
terrain at the top of the mosaic, just left of center, lies a very
intriguing feature: a strikingly dark spot from which diffuse dark
material appears to extend to the northeast. The origin of this feature
is not yet known..."
Mosaic - East of Xanadu"
"...the outer layer
of the thick, hazy atmosphere is brimming with complex hydrocarbons
Materials Spotted High Above Titan's Surface"
"...the bright area to the north...and west is higher than the rest
of the terrain, and covered in dark lines that appear to be drainage
channels. These lead down to what appears to be a shoreline with river
deltas and sand bars...The current interpretation of these lines is that
they are cut by flowing liquid methane..."
Full Mosaics of Titan's Surface"
"...Titan shows an unusual bright spot that has scientists
mystified...approximately the size and shape of West Virginia, is just
southeast of the bright region called Xanadu...the...region may be a
"hot" spot -- an area possibly warmed by a recent asteroid impact or by
a mixture of water ice and ammonia from a warm interior, oozing out of
an ice volcano onto colder surrounding terrain..."
Spot on Titan Baffles Scientists"
"... A recent flyby of Saturn's hazy moon Titan by the Cassini
spacecraft has revealed evidence of a possible volcano, which could be a
source of methane in Titan's atmosphere...Images...show a circular
feature roughly 30 kilometers (19 miles) in diameter that does not
resemble any features seen on Saturn's other icy moons. Scientists
interpret the feature as an "ice volcano," a dome formed by upwelling
icy plumes that release methane into Titan's atmosphere...a bright
circular feature about 30 kilometers (19 miles) in diameter, with two
elongated wings extending westward. This structure resembles volcanoes
on Earth and Venus, with overlapping layers of material from a series of
flows...scientists clearly see a dark feature that resembles a caldera,
a bowl-shaped structure formed above chambers of molten material. The
material erupting from the volcano might be a methane-water ice mixture
combined with other ices and hydrocarbons..."
Volcano" -- NASA
Discover Possible Titan Volcano" --JPL
"Scientists are fascinated by a dark, lake-like feature recently...with
smooth, shore-like boundaries unlike any seen previously on Titan...The
suspected lake area measures 234 kilometers long by 73 kilometers wide
(145 miles by 45 miles), about the size of Lake Ontario, on the U.S.
Canadian border...The feature lies in Titan's cloudiest region, which is
presumably the most likely site of recent methane rainfall. This,
coupled with the shore-like smoothness of the feature's perimeter makes
it hard for scientists to resist speculation about what might be filling
the lake...'It's possible that some of the storms in this region are
strong enough to make methane rain that reaches the surface,'...'Given
Titan's cold temperatures, it could take a long time for any liquid
methane collecting on the surface to evaporate. So it might not be
surprising for a methane-filled lake to persist for a long time,'..."
Cassini Reveals Lake-Like Feature on Titan" -- NASA
of Lakes?" -- JPL
"The spacecraft is expected to return high-resolution images of
Titan's high southern latitudes and will have a rare opportunity to
study the interaction between Titan and the magnetosphere of Saturn in
an exotic region"
Flyby - Aug. 22, 2005" -- JPL
"Titan's equatorial latitudes are distinctly different in character from
its south polar region..."
at the Huygens Site" -- JPL
"...summer does bring storm clouds and presumably rain to Titan's south
polar region. The observed persistence of convective storm activity in
the region during the southern Titan summer has led scientists to
speculate that the dark, footprint-shaped feature near the upper left
could be a past or present reservoir for Titan's methane rains...This
series of three Cassini narrow-angle camera images, centered on the
pole, shows the evolution of bright clouds in the region over the course
of two hours...The images in this movie sequence were taken using
a combination of spectral filters sensitive to wavelengths of polarized
infrared light, allowing Cassini to see through the obscuring smog of
Titan's atmosphere and down to the surface..."
in the Distance" -- JPL
"NASA's Cassini Looking for Lakes on Titan...Informally dubbed "Looking
for lakes in all the right places," the Sept. 7 encounter with Titan
focuses on the moon's high southern latitudes, an area where Cassini's
cameras have seen some possible indications of lakes."
Flyby - Sept. 7, 2005" -- JPL
"During its Sept. 7, 2005, flyby of Titan, Cassini acquired images of
territory...Once...only as "the H" because the region looks something
like the letter on its side...The northern branch of the H is now called
"Fensal," while the southern branch is known as "Aztlan."...Fensal is
littered with small "islands" ranging in size from 5 to 40 kilometers (3
to 25 miles) across. These landforms currently are thought to be water
ice upland areas, surrounded by shallower terrain that is filled-in with
dark particulate material from the atmosphere..."
'Fensal-Aztlan'" -- JPL
"Images returned during Cassini's recent flyby of Titan show captivating
evidence of what appears to be a large shoreline cutting across the
smoggy moon's southern hemisphere. Hints that this area was once wet, or
currently has liquid present, are evident...The images show what looks
like a shoreline dividing a distinct bright and dark region roughly
1,700 kilometers long by 170 kilometers wide (1,060 by 106
miles)...'This is the area where liquid or a wet surface has most likely
been present, now or in the recent past...'Titan probably has episodic
periods of rainfall or massive seepages of liquid from the
ground.'...Bay-like features also lead scientists to speculate that the
bright-dark boundary is most likely a shoreline...'We also see a network
of channels that run across the bright terrain, indicating that fluids,
probably liquid hydrocarbons, have flowed across this region...at least
two distinct types of drainage and channel formation on Titan.
Some...are long and deep, with angular patterns and few tributaries,
suggesting that fluids flow over great distances. By contrast, others
show channels that form a denser network that might indicate
rainfall...'It looks as though fluid flowed in these channels, cutting
deeply into the icy crust of Titan. Some of the channels extend over 100
kilometers (60 miles). Some of them may have been fed by springs, while
others are more complicated networks that were likely filled by
rainfall.'...Titan has an environment somewhat similar to that of Earth
before biological activity forever altered the composition of Earth's
Radar Images Show Dramatic Shoreline on Titan" -- JPL
Flyby - Sept. 7, 2005" -- JPL
"Titan's atmosphere is about 5 per cent methane, and Chris McKay of
NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffet Field, California, thinks that
some of it could be coming from methanogens, or methane-producing
microbes...the microbes would breathe hydrogen rather than
oxygen, and eat organic molecules drifting down from the upper
atmosphere...their breathing would deplete hydrogen levels near the
surface to one-thousandth that of the rest of the atmosphere. Detecting
this difference would be striking evidence for life, because no known
non-biological process on Titan could affect hydrogen concentrations as
Found Life On Titan?" -- as proposed by NASA Ames Research Center,
Space Science Division, planetary scientist / astrobiologist Dr.
Christopher P. McKay, (one of the world's leading researchers studying
Titan, co-Investigator on the Titan probe atmospheric structure
experiment (HASI), with broader interests focus on understanding the
relationship between the chemical and physical evolution of the solar
system and the origin of life), in his paper recently submitted to the
American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS)
official publication "Icarus", (summarized in the New Scientist article
link above "Has Huygens Found Life On Titan?"), mentioned at The
Planetary Society talk by Dr. McKay, "Titan Through the Eyes of Huygens:
A Quiet Little Place With a Nice Atmosphere", September 27, 7:30 p.m.,
Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, San Francisco, California
"Cassini...mapped the region where the Huygens probe landed...two
images...a composite of the imaging camera and infrared
data...and...synthetic aperture radar image..."
Huygens Landing Site" -- JPL
Flyby - Oct. 28, 2005" -- JPL
"Naming New Lands...the spacecraft's narrow-angle camera acquired
multiple images that were combined to create the mosaic presented..."
Ultraviolet Haze" -- JPL
"Naming New Lands...the spacecraft's narrow-angle camera acquired
multiple images that were combined to create the mosaic presented..."
Flyby" -- JPL
"NASA Announces Joint News Briefing [with European Space Agency (ESA)]
to Discuss Titan..."
News MEDIA ADVISORY: M05-183" --NASA
Landing Site Movie" --JPL
Descent Sequence...artist's concept [animation]..." --JPL
"New findings from Titan...Results from Huygens...released today,
coinciding with online publication in Nature and Science, are available
The Huygens results" "audio
of ESA’s Huygens mission"
"Speeches at the ESA Press Conference...on new findings by the
Huygens...Paris 30 November."
"... a second ionospheric layer and possible lightning were among the
surprises found by the Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument (HASI)
during the descent to Titan’s surface...HASI may...have seen the
signature of lightning. Several electrical field impulse events were
observed during the descent, caused by possible lightning activity in
the spherical waveguide formed by the surface of Titan and the inner
boundary of its ionosphere."
turbulence surprises scientists"
"The infrared reflectance spectrum...measured for the surface is unlike
any other in the Solar System. There are signs of organic materials such
the most intriguing feature in the surface spectrum is an infrared
signature of a material not matched by any combination of spectra of
ices and complex organics found on Earth"
winds and haze during the descent to Titan"
out on Titan? A soft solid surface for Huygens"
"Titan's aerosols play an important role in determining atmospheric
thermal structure...of prime importance...ammonia is not present as a
gas in the atmosphere, hence the aerosols must include the results of
chemical reactions that may have produced complex organic molecules.
They are not simply condensates...Aerosol particles...are the
end-products of a complex organic chemistry which is important in
astrobiology. Indeed, Titan offers the possibility to observe chemical
pathways involving molecules that may have been the building blocks of
life on Earth. "
'in situ' composition measurements made in Titan's atmosphere" --ESA
"A stereo pair of images (insert) was acquired from the Huygens
descent imager/spectral radiometer."
Plains on Titan" -- JPL
"Cassini's infrared views of Titan have revealed significant scientific
Titan" -- JPL
"Cassini Caps off Year with Titan Flyby"
"Titan’s organic chemistry may be like that of the primitive Earth
around 4000 million years ago, and may hold clues about how life began
on our planet."
landing: one year on" --ESA
"New views of the most distant touchdown ever made by a spacecraft
are being released today by NASA, the European Space Agency and the
University of Arizona. The movies show the dramatic descent of the
Huygens probe to the surface of Saturn's moon Titan on Jan. 14, 2005."."
and Partners Release New Movies of Titan" -- JPL
"Xanadu, an Australia-sized, bright region...surrounded by darker
terrain, reminiscent of a free-standing landmass. At the region's
western edge, dark sand dunes give way to land cut by river networks,
hills and valleys. These narrow river networks flow onto darker areas,
which may be lakes."
Reveals Titan's Xanadu Region To Be an Earth-like Land" -- JPL
(*Note: Paris time is Central European Time
(CET), which is Greenwich Mean
Time (GMT) minus one (GMT - 1) and for California in Winter is Pacific
Standard Time (PST) minus nine (PST - 9), so subtract 9 from Paris
time to get California in Winter time. (How it works: "PST - Pacific Standard Time...Note that during summer daylight saving time/summer time is observed, and PDT is used instead....PDT - Pacific Daylight Time...Note that PDT is a daylight saving time/summer time zone. It is generally only used during the summer...during the winter PST is used instead..." --