Moons of our Solar System
Moons of our Solar System

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2.3 Descent to Titan

This video allows you to see (and hear) the data collected by the Huygens lander during its descent. Four hours is compressed to less than five minutes.

The first part of the video shows how Titan appeared to the camera as it acquired more and more images during the probe’s descent. Each image has a small field of view and dozens of images were made into mosaics of the whole scene. The view is pretty boring until Huygens passes through the smog layer.

The video includes sidebar graphics that show:

  • (Lower left corner) Huygens’ trajectory views from the south, with a scale bar for comparison with the height of Mount Everest; coloured arrows point to the Sun and to the Cassini orbiter.
  • (Top left corner) A close-up view of the Huygens lander highlighting large and unexpected parachute movements; there is a scale bar for comparison with human height.
  • (Lower right corner) A compass that shows the changing direction of view as Huygens rotates, along with the relative positions of the Sun and the Cassini orbiter.
  • (Upper right corner) A clock that shows Universal Time for 14 January 2005 (Universal Time is the same as GMT). Above the clock, events are listed in mission time, which starts with the deployment of the first of the three parachutes.

Sounds from a left speaker trace Huygens’ motion, with tones changing with rotational speed and the tilt of the parachute. There are also clicks that track the rotational counter and sounds for the probe’s heat shield hitting Titan’s atmosphere, parachute deployments, heat shield release, jettison of the camera cover and touchdown.

Sounds from a right speaker go with the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer activity. A continuous tone represents the strength of Huygens’ signal to the Cassini orbiter, which then relayed the signal to the Earth. Various chimes denote data acquisition by Huygens’ on-board instruments.

After landing, you see a colour image and a series of black-and-white images from the surface, which continue until contact is lost, but the view of a footprint on the left is an Apollo image of the surface of the Moon to show you the scale of the Titan surface view.

Download this video clip.Video player: moons_1_vid055.mp4
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

For another way of visualizing the descent, take a look at this video [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] that blends Cassini images with Huygens images.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371