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Animation: Cassini's View Of Titan

Shown here side-by-side is a close-up of the Huygens probe. The image on the left shows the relative size of the probe. The bright spots in both images are probably due to light reflecting off the blanketing material that covers the probe. Although only a few pixels across, this image is helping navigators reconstruct the probe's trajectory and pinpoint its position relative to Cassini. This information so far shows that the probe and Cassini are right on the mark and well within the predicted trajectory accuracy. This information is important to help establish the required geometry between the probe and the orbiter for radio communications during the probe descent on 14 January.
Paris, France (ESA) Jan 05, 2005
Watch a fascinating animation showing Titan, Saturn's largest moon, as seen from the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini spacecraft on 14 January 2005 during the time that ESA's Huygens probe is scheduled to descend through the moon's atmosphere.

This animation simulates how Titan would appear as viewed from the Cassini spacecraft on 14 January 2005 between 9:06 UTC and 14:00 UTC (10:06 CET to 15:00 CET) during Huygens' descent. In reality, Cassini will not be viewing Titan as its dish antenna will be turned towards the moon to capture data transmitted by Huygens during its descent. Huygens will start its entry into Titan's atmosphere at an altitude of 1 270 kilometres above the surface while Cassini does a flyby at a starting altitude of 71 400 kilometres.

Huygens will enter Titan's atmosphere at a relatively steep angle of 65 and a velocity of about 6 kilometres per second. The target is over the southern hemisphere, on the daylight side. Note that Huygens is not shown in the animation clip, as it would be invisible at the scale used.

In the image (above) and in the animation, a pink colour region on the surface of Titan can be seen extending from approximately longitude 130 to 170 degrees East and latitude 10 to 11 degrees South. This region indicates the probable Huygens touchdown area within 99% probability. The uncertainty takes into account variations in aerodynamic and atmospheric properties and especially the wind speed profile.

Protected by an ablative thermal shield, the probe will decelerate to 400 metres per second within three minutes before it deploys a 2.6-metre pilot chute at about 160 kilometres altitude. After 2.5 seconds, this chute will pull away the probe's aft cover and the main parachute, 8.3 metres in diameter, will deploy to stabilise the probe.

The front shield will then be released and the probe, whose main objective is to study Titan's atmosphere, will open inlet ports and deploy booms to collect scientific data. Imagery of the surface along the probe's track will also be acquired.

This data will be transmitted directly to the Cassini orbiter, which will be flying past Titan at 60 000 kilometres at closest approach.

Successful Getaway For Cassini

Paris (ESA) Jan 05, 2005 NASA's Cassini spacecraft successfully performed a getaway manoeuvre on 28 December to keep it from following the ESA's Huygens probe into the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan.

This manoeuvre established the required geometry between the probe and the orbiter for radio communications during the probe descent on 14 January. The probe has no navigating capability, so the Cassini orbiter had been placed on a deliberate collision course with Titan to ensure the accurate delivery of the probe to Titan.

The Huygens probe successfully detached from the Cassini orbiter on 25 December. All systems performed as expected.

The Huygens probe will be the first human-made object to explore on-site the unique environment of Titan, whose chemistry is thought to be very similar to that of early Earth before life arose.

Next for Cassini is a flyby of Saturn's icy moon Iapetus on 31 December. Iapetus is Saturn's two-faced moon - one side is very bright, and the other is very dark. One scenario for this striking difference is that the moon's surface is being resurfaced by some material spewing from within.

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Parachuting Into Titan
Huntsville AL (SPX) Jan 04, 2005
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.