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

Open-Source Titan



One of the early promises of the Information Age was contained in the adage “information wants to be free.” The massive transfer of data to digital formats and the Internet, the rapid explosion in memory capacity and communication bandwidth, and the falling price of technology are related trends reshaping humankind’s relationship with knowledge. The latest example is the public availability of raw images from the current space probe missions, including Cassini-Huygens at the Saturnian system.

In a surprising turn, imaging enthusiasts and amateurs outside ESA and NASA are beating the space agencies at turning the raw data returned by the Huygens space probe from the surface of Titan into breathtaking panorama, mosaics, cleaned-up single images, 3D renderings, and anaglyphs. These images are not official, but reflect the remarkable abilities of these individuals, most of them in Europe. The public seems to be responding; traffic has slowed down the servers of these enthusiasts to a crawl.

The most popular site appears to be, where various contributors have sent in their weekend work. The number of images dwarfs the available images from ESA and NASA. From the site:

“This work has been done by amateurs with no extensive scientific background, publishing the first images in under 8 hours. We’ll have to wait for ESA/NASA to deliver us the correct images, so please, take the resulting images on this page with a grain of salt (that was a disclaimer).”

Impatience and enthusiasm have never come together so beautifully.

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