News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Rivers and Seas on Titan?



Elated scientists are now examining the data sent from the surface of Titan by the Huygens probe. The first image was displayed in special video coverage from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany. The image appears to show a drainage system emptying into a dark body, though this has not yet been confirmed. Scientists had previously lowered their expectations for finding liquid on the surface of Titan after previous images from Cassini failed to show any obvious signs of oceans or lakes.

Huygens has a much better vantage point than Cassini did because it fell through the moon’s atmosphere to the surface, snapping pictures along the way. Images beneath the haze layer that covers the moon are expected to show great detail. Despite being designed to last for just a few minutes once it landed on the surface, Huygens lasted for over two hours. In fact, it was still sending data to Cassini (to be transmitted later to Earth) when Cassini traveled below the horizon, cutting off the signal. Radio telescopes on the Earth continued to pick up Huygens’ carrier signal hours after the successful landing.

The European Space Agency (ESA) developed the Huygens probe that rode with Cassini to the Saturnian system.

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