Date: 14 Jan 2005
The European Space Agency's Huygens probe returned the first views of the surface of Saturn's mysterious moon Titan. This is the first color image returned from the surface of Titan.
Initially thought to be rocks or ice blocks, the surface features seen here are more pebble-sized. The two rock-like objects just below the middle of the image are about 15 cm (about 6 inches) (left) and 4 cm (about 1.5 inches) (center) across respectively, at a distance of about 85 cm (about 33 inches) from Huygens. The surface is darker than originally expected, consisting of a mixture of water and hydrocarbon ice. There is also evidence of erosion at the base of these objects, indicating possible fluvial activity.
The image was taken with the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer, one of two NASA instruments on the probe.
What Scientists/Engineers Say About This Image:
"Th Huygens entry and descent at Titan was a very complex undertaking with many firsts and many involved systems that all had to work properly. It also represented a major advance in our understanding of a heretofore mysterious and not understood planetary body. Prior to the Huygens mission, Titan probably represented the body in our solar system with the most intrigue."
--Robert Mitchell: Program Manager, Cassini Mission to Saturn, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(Read More of what Robert Mitchell has to say about this and other significant events by clicking here.)
"The Huygens probe entry into Titan was really in a certain way the last "first." The Huygens probe was the last time that we would drop a probe for the first time into a completely unknown atmosphere with a solid surface beneath it in our solar system. I remember being nervous about it because it seemed to be such a hard place to get a machine to work, as well as being excited about it."
--David Grinspoon: Curator of Astrobiology, Denver Museum of Nature and Science
(Read More of what David Grinspoon has to say about this and other significant events by clicking here.)
Last Update: 27 Jun 2011 (AMB)
Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona