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January 13, 2005

Parachuting to Titan

Get ready for two of the strangest hours in the history of space exploration. Two hours. That's how long it will take the European Space Agency's Huygens probe to parachute to the surface of Titan on January 14th. Descending through thick orange clouds, Huygens will taste Titan’s atmosphere, measure its wind and rain, listen for alien sounds and, when the clouds part, start taking pictures. No one knows what the photos will reveal. Icy mountains? Liquid methane seas? Hot lightning? "It's anyone's guess," says Jonathan Lunine, a professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona and a member of the Huygens science team. "We might not even understand what we see, not immediately."

Such is Titan--the biggest mystery in the solar system.

Astronomers have been watching Titan, Saturn's largest moon, for centuries. What's down there? No one knows, but it's bound to be strange. Get ready.

January 13, 2005 in Tech/Science | Permalink


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