VLT Observations of Titan
1 March 2005On 14 January 2005, the ESA Huygens probe arrived at Saturn's largest satellite, Titan. After a faultless descent through the dense atmosphere, it touched down on the icy surface of this strange world from where it continued to transmit precious data back to the Earth.
Several of the world's large ground-based telescopes were also active during this exciting event, observing Titan before and near the Huygens encounter, within the framework of a dedicated campaign coordinated by the members of the Huygens Project Scientist Team. Indeed, large astronomical telescopes with state-of-the art adaptive optics systems allow scientists to image Titan's disc in quite some detail. Moreover, ground-based observations are not restricted to the limited period of the fly-by of Cassini and landing of Huygens. They hence complement the data gathered by this NASA/ESA mission, further optimising the overall scientific return.
A group of astronomers observed Titan with ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory (Chile) during the nights from 14 to 16 January. Mounted on the 8.2-m Yepun telescope the adaptive optics instrument NAOS/CONICA (Nasmyth Adaptive Optics System/Near-Infrared Imager and Spectrograph) was used. The observations were carried out in several modes, resulting in a series of fine images and detailed spectra of this mysterious moon. They complement earlier VLT observations of Titan.
The full press release is available at the ESO website.