New View of an Old Probe
Eight years ago today, January 14, the Huygens probe, part of the original Cassini mission, landed on the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. A year later, the European Space Agency's science team said this about its accomplishments:
Clear images of the surface of Titan were obtained below an altitude of 40 kilometers (25 miles) -- revealing an extraordinary world that resembled Earth in many respects, especially in meteorology, geomorphology and fluvial activity, but with different ingredients. The images show strong evidence for erosion due to liquid flows, possibly methane.
The screenshot above is from an animation the ESA released today of what the probe's descent and landing would have looked like, based on atmospheric and geologic conditions.
A 'fluffy' dust-like material - most likely organic aerosols that are known to drizzle out of the Titan atmosphere - was thrown up and suspended for around four seconds around the probe following impact. The dust was easily lifted, suggesting it was most likely dry and that there had not been any 'rain' of liquid ethane or methane for some time prior to landing.
Watch the video here.
Image screenshot credit: ESA / Huygen's team