Cassini Huygens Misson: Last Phase

December 21, 2004
Huygens probe separating to enter Titan's atmosphere

The NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini Huygens mission to Saturn, which has already delivered stunning images and data of the ringed planet following insertion into the Saturnian system on 1st July this year, is poised to enter a crucial stage in its voyage of scientific discovery. In the early hours of Christmas morning [25t December] the Huygens probe will separate from the orbiter, its home for the last seven years, and coast towards Titan where it will parachute down through the nitrogen-rich atmosphere of Saturns largest moon.

On the 14th of January 2005, Huygens will arrive on Titan's surface some 2.5 hours after entering the atmosphere - although the exact nature of its final resting place remains a mystery. Scientists speculate that Huygens may find lakes or even oceans of a mixture of liquid ethane, methane and nitrogen.

On Christmas Day 2004, Cassini is scheduled to release its passenger Huygens with a gentle push to start its unpowered coast to Titan.

The surface of Titan is still a mystery and scientists don't know what sort of surface Huygens will encounter. It could splash down on a sea of liquid methane, crash on frozen ice and rocks or gently squelch down in extraterrestrial slime.

Source: PPARC

Explore further: Under Saturnian moon's icy crust lies a 'global' ocean

Related Stories

Under Saturnian moon's icy crust lies a 'global' ocean

September 15, 2015

By measuring with exquisite precision the tiny wobbles of Saturn's moon Enceladus – whose cosmic quavers are detectable only in high-resolution images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft – Cornell University researchers ...

The moons of Saturn

September 14, 2015

Saturn is well known for being a gas giant, and for its impressive ring system. But would it surprise you to know that this planet also has the second-most moons in the Solar System, second only to Jupiter? Yes, Saturn has ...

The gas (and ice) giant Neptune

September 14, 2015

Neptune is the eight planet from our Sun, one of the four gas giants, and one of the four outer planets in our Solar System. Since the "demotion" of Pluto by the IAU to the status of a dwarf planet – and/or Plutoid and ...

The Planet Saturn

August 3, 2015

The farthest planet from the Sun that be observed with the naked eye, the existence of Saturn has been known for thousands of years. And much like all celestial bodies that can be observed with the aid of instruments – ...

Cassini zooms past Dione

June 19, 2015

The rugged landscape of Saturn's fracture-faced moon Dione is revealed in images sent back by NASA's Cassini spacecraft from its latest flyby. Cassini buzzed past Dione on June 16, coming within 321 miles (516 kilometers) ...

Titan's surface dissolves like sinkholes on Earth

June 18, 2015

Saturn's moon Titan is home to seas and lakes filled with liquid hydrocarbons, but what makes the depressions they lie in? A new study suggests that the moon's surface dissolves in a similar process that creates sinkholes ...

Recommended for you

The dark side of Nobel prizewinning research

October 4, 2015

Think of the Nobel prizes and you think of groundbreaking research bettering mankind, but the awards have also honoured some quite unhumanitarian inventions such as chemical weapons, DDT and lobotomies.

Internet giants race to faster mobile news apps

October 4, 2015

US tech giants are turning to the news in their competition for mobile users, developing new, faster ways to deliver content, but the benefits for struggling media outlets remain unclear.

Trade in invasive plants is blossoming

October 3, 2015

Every day, hundreds of different plant species—many of them listed as invasive—are traded online worldwide on auction platforms. This exacerbates the problem of uncontrollable biological invasions.

Fusion reactors 'economically viable' say experts

October 2, 2015

Fusion reactors could become an economically viable means of generating electricity within a few decades, and policy makers should start planning to build them as a replacement for conventional nuclear power stations, according ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.