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.

Published by

Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a fiction writer and poet, with his first published poem forthcoming later in 2017 from Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey. Richard is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team at the University of Arizona. He monitors images of the Martian surface taken by the HiRISE camera located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars and helps ensure they process successfully and are validated for quick release to the science community and public. Once upon a time, Richard wrote and edited the science and technology news and commentary website Frontier Channel, hosted the RADIO Frontier Channel podcast, and organized transhumanist clubs. Follow Richard on his website (, on Goodreads (richardleis), his (@richardleis), Twitter (@richardleisjr), and Facebook (richardleisjr).