Ten years ago, ESA's Huygens probe entered the history books by descending to the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Humanity's first successful attempt to land a probe on another world in the outer Solar System took place at 13:34 CET (12:34 GMT) on 14 January 2005.
Huygens hitched a ride to the Saturn system during an epic, seven-year voyage attached to NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The final chapter of the interplanetary trek was a 21-day solo cruise toward the haze-shrouded moon. Plunging into Titan's atmosphere, the probe survived the hazardous 2 hour 27 minute descent to touch down safely on Titan's frozen surface.
Huygens continued to transmit back to Earth for another 72 minutes before contact was lost with Cassini as it dipped below the horizon. The stream of data provided a unique treasure trove of in situ measurements from the planet-sized satellite which scientists are still mining today. To mark the 10th anniversary of Huygens landing on Titan, we have selected 10 important results from the pioneering mission.
Read Huygens' top 10 discoveries at Titan on ESA's Science & Technology website
A new rendering of Huygens descent and touchdown created using real data recorded by the probe’s instruments as it descended to the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, on 14 January 2005.
The animation takes into account Titan’s atmospheric conditions, including the Sun and wind direction, the behaviour of the parachute (with some artistic interpretation only on the movement of the ropes after touchdown), and the dynamics of the landing itself. Even the stones immediately facing Huygens were rendered to match the photograph of the landing site returned from the probe, which is revealed at the end of the animation.
Split into four sequences, the animation first shows a wide-angle view of the descent and landing followed by two close-ups of the touchdown from different angles, and finally a simulated view from Huygens itself – the true Huygens experience.
This animation was released on the eighth anniversary of Huygen’s touchdown on Titan as a Space Science Image of the Week feature.
On 15 October 1997, NASA's Cassini orbiter embarked on an epic, seven-year voyage to the Saturnian system. Hitching a ride was ESA's Huygens probe, destined for Saturn's largest moon, Titan. The final chapter of the interplanetary trek for Huygens began on 25 December 2004 when it deployed from the orbiter for a 21-day solo cruise toward the haze-shrouded moon. Plunging into Titan’s atmosphere, on 14 January 2005, the probe survived the hazardous 2 hour 27 minute descent to touch down safely on Titan’s frozen surface.
A new narrated movie of Huygens's descent to Titan's surface created with data collected by Cassini's imaging cameras and the Huygens Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) is available here