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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Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a writer and poet living in Tucson, Arizona. His poetry has been published in Impossible Archetype and is forthcoming from The Laurel Review. A piece of flash fiction is forthcoming from Cold Creek Review. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published online at Tiny Donkey and Fairy Tale Review’s “Fairy-Tale Files.” Richard is also Downlink Lead for HiRISE at the University of Arizona.