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First Results from Huygens

First Results from Huygens

Scientists have revealed their initial findings based on analysis of the Huygens data. As well as images of Titan, sounds have also been recorded in the atmosphere.

17 January 2005


This picture is a composite of 30 images from ESA's Huygens probe. They were taken from an altitude varying from 13 kilometers down to 8 kilometers when the probe was descending towards its landing site. The images have a resolution of about 20 meters per pixel and cover an area extending out to 30 kilometers.

Credit: ESA/NASA/University of Arizona

15 January 2005


Composite images shows three dimensional structure
Possible methane or ethane ground fog on surface
Wind speed 7 metres per second at altitudes 10 to 20 km

This image was returned yesterday, 14 January 2005, by ESA's Huygens probe during its successful descent to land on Titan. This is the coloured view, following processing to add reflection spectra data, gives a better indication of the actual colour of the surface. Initially thought to be rocks or ice blocks, they are more pebble-sized. The two rock-like objects just below the middle of the image are about 15 centimetres (left) and 4 centimetres (centre) across respectively, at a distance of about 85 centimetres 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

Credit: ESA/NASA/University of Arizona
A composite image showing a full 360-degree view around Huygens. The left-hand side, behind Huygens, shows a boundary between light and dark areas. These images were taken from an altitude of about 8 kilometres with a resolution of about 20 metres per pixel.
Credits: ESA/NASA/University of Arizona

This graph shows a spectrum, displaying the intensity of solar light reflected by the surface of Titan as a function of wavelength (colour).
Credits: ESA/NASA/University of Arizona


Detailed analysis of methane
In stratosphere - uniform mixing
90 minutes into descent and the methane mixing ratio (relative to nitrogen) changes indicating the possible presence of clouds
Methane mixing ratio is higher at the surface


Data collected from entry covering the full deceleration of the probe and conducting a full analysis of the atmospheric structure.
Measurements of pressure and temperature against altitude achieved.
Surface temperature estimated at 93.8 K
Microphone recorded sounds in the Titan atmosphere as the probe descended.
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Recovered 3 hours 37 minutes of data, including 1 hour 10 minutes on the surface.
No data from any of the nine sensors was lost.
Deceleration of about 15g in 40 milliseconds when Huygens touched down.
Touchdown took place 2 hours 27 minutes 50 seconds after atmosphere interface.
Penetrometer measurements suggest a thin crust of over the surface. Penetrometer extended 15 cm into the surface.
Sonar measurements recorded data until about 12m above surface. Impact speed on surface 4.5 metres per second.

Data from the SSP Accelerometer showing the force experienced by Huygens as it landed on the surface.

Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/Open University

Data from the SSP Penetrometer experiment showing the applied force.  Scientists believe the data shows the surface to have some kind of thin crust covering a less dense sub-surface material.

Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/Open University

Radio Experiments

By using VLBI techniques 18 radio observatories around the world were able to track the descent of the Huygens probe.  This will allow scientist to determine the position of Huygens to within a few kilometres and wind speed to a few metres per second.

Carrier signal detected by Green Bank 110m radio telescope, USA.


Carrier signal detected at Parkes-Mopra radio observatory, Australia.


14 January 2005


Taken at an altitude of 8 kilometres with a resolution of 20 metres per pixel the image shows what could be the landing site, with shorelines and boundaries between raised ground and flooded plains.

Credit: ESA/NASA/University of Arizona

Taken from an altitude of 16.2 km this image has a resolution of around 40 m per pixel. It shows possible drainage channels and a shoreline Note - this image is unprocessed.

Credit: ESA/NASA/University of Arizona

An unprocessed image of Titan's surface at the Huygens probe landing site showing what are believed to be small sized blocks of ice.

Credit: ESA/NASA/University of Arizona

Last Update: 1 September 2019
14-Jun-2024 06:27 UT

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