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Huygens Makes it!
January 14, 2005 9:52 AM   Subscribe

It worked! Huygens has successfully landed on Saturn's moon Titan and the Cassini orbiter is sending good data back to Earth as I type. Isn't it amazing how we can take a probe the size of a compact car, send it on a 7 year journey in the most inhospitable environment imaginable, deploy a sub-probe that has been dormant for that entire time and land it where we had planned on another solar body so far away that it takes 67 minutes to get a signal back and forth. Exploration and research has never been so cool.
posted by tgrundke (37 comments total)

 
I can't wait to see some pictures.
posted by sotalia at 10:07 AM on January 14, 2005


Please scroll down.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:09 AM on January 14, 2005


Yeah, it's a double post, but in all the excitement I think it's forgivable.
posted by jokeefe at 10:19 AM on January 14, 2005


Seeing as the real entertainment is happening today with the Huygens landing, I felt it appropriate. First photos are expected at 2:45pm EST.
posted by tgrundke at 11:11 AM on January 14, 2005


You felt it necessary to make this post less than 12 hours after the previous one on this topic? How is that again?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:19 AM on January 14, 2005


Oh lord....please forgive me for my transgressions against humanity, monju.
posted by tgrundke at 11:21 AM on January 14, 2005


I think it's okay to have two Spacefilter posts in one day on a day like this one. We need to do our part to compensate for the near-zero coverage this has received in the mainstream press.

I guess the lack of coverage isn't all that surprising - I know plenty of people who would have a hard time naming Saturn if asked to recite the names of the planets... (yes, it's true, and you know many people like this too...)
posted by killdevil at 11:26 AM on January 14, 2005


Oh lord....please forgive me for my transgressions against humanity, monju.

I'm not a noob basher, but then you're not new here: monju has a point, you know.

In two words: Well, duh...
posted by y2karl at 11:34 AM on January 14, 2005


If Titan does indeed have oceans of hydrocarbons, I expect we will shortly hear that a juicy no-bid exclusive contract has been awarded to Halliburton.

Just think, all that oil, no bolshy natives!
posted by meehawl at 11:38 AM on January 14, 2005


Here is where we can expect Titan surface imagery to show up first.
posted by killdevil at 11:40 AM on January 14, 2005


I know plenty of people who would have a hard time naming Saturn if asked to recite the names of the planets:

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzapies.
posted by grateful at 11:40 AM on January 14, 2005


Yes grateful, I wish more people remembered such mnemonics. Actually, I call the planet-naming thing The Family of the Sun, after an exhibit at the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.,

Once upon a time, because of a bet I had with a co-worker, I polled the people at my company as to their knowledge of the Family of the Sun. I lost the bet - more than half didn't even come close to naming the full complement of planets.

The company failed - coincidence?
posted by killdevil at 11:50 AM on January 14, 2005


I just saw a short clip from NASA TV... they showed an amazing image of what appeared to be channels leading up to a shoreline.

The scientist used the words "apparent shoreline". Incredible stuff!
posted by grimcity at 12:23 PM on January 14, 2005


My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzapies.


Actualy, pluto is not the farthest planet from the sun, currently. It has an eliptical orbit such that once every few hundred years it's closer to the sun then neptune.
posted by delmoi at 12:33 PM on January 14, 2005


Here's a page with that first image with what looks a great deal like some kind of methane river delta:

First Huygens picture

It's the same one that was on NASA TV. That site's getting a bit hammered and is slow, but you should be able to see it in a couple of minutes.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:33 PM on January 14, 2005


All of the first images received from Titan.

You can clearly see the "river channels" through the haze...
posted by killdevil at 12:54 PM on January 14, 2005


More pics:

http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/%7Ekholso/data.htm

On preview, thanks killdevil...
posted by lyam at 12:55 PM on January 14, 2005


One thousand raw images from Titan... Here's hoping this site doesn't get Slashdotted.
posted by killdevil at 12:59 PM on January 14, 2005


Damn, I thought about posting that, but now... Let's hope someone mirrors that!
posted by lyam at 1:02 PM on January 14, 2005


The Planetary Society's Huygens Weblog:
Bringing you Huygens Mission Events As They Happen!
posted by euphorb at 1:10 PM on January 14, 2005


Actualy, pluto is not the farthest planet from the sun, currently. It has an eliptical orbit such that once every few hundred years it's closer to the sun then neptune.

And in 2001, I believe it was, Pluto crossed Neptune's orbit again, once more becoming the ninth planet.
posted by salad spork at 1:13 PM on January 14, 2005


Don't forget poor lil' Sedna.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:42 PM on January 14, 2005


Pluto's inclusion as a planet is more sentimental than scientific. Not something I begrudge, but something I note.
posted by edgeways at 1:55 PM on January 14, 2005


I can't wait to see what Malachi Constant looks like!
posted by hellbient at 2:09 PM on January 14, 2005


This is so fucking awesome. The best day for space news in a long time.
posted by interrobang at 3:03 PM on January 14, 2005


[this is a good day]
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:14 PM on January 14, 2005


edgeways: Pluto's inclusion as a planet is more sentimental than scientific. Not something I begrudge, but something I note.

You beat me to pointing that out, but I'm going to quote Shonte Jr. on the matter anyway, since I like the quote so much. :)

Shonte Jr.: Man how the hell can they call Pluto a planet? No motherfucking planet has an elliptical orbit. This shit don't make no sense.
posted by Bort at 4:25 PM on January 14, 2005


"No motherfucking planet has an elliptical orbit."

Ahem, beg to differ. They ALL have elliptical orbits. That's Kepler's First Law: "Planets move in elliptical orbits, with the Sun at one of the foci."

Most of them are just ellipses with a very high degree of circularity. :)

/hypernerdy former Sagan student

Quaoar?
posted by zoogleplex at 5:02 PM on January 14, 2005


Those of you with a decent memory and a space or environmental fetish will recall the controversy
over Cassini's plutonium-based reactor (too far from sun for solar cells to work) and concerns about launch failures or it hitting us during the 43,000 MPH flyby of Earth on its roundabout way to Saturn. The size of Cassini and the sheer distance to Saturn forced the indirect route -- we simply don't have a rocket powerful enough to just Go Straight There.
posted by intermod at 6:59 PM on January 14, 2005


It came very close to not working.
posted by grimcity at 9:37 PM on January 14, 2005


I promise I'll never ever make fun of anyone named "Smeds" ever again.

Maybe
posted by Freen at 11:35 PM on January 14, 2005


Bort: No motherfucking planet has an elliptical orbit. This shit don't make no sense.

There is at least one motherfucking planet that has an elliptical orbit. Maybe you heard of it, it is called Earth.

Actually, all planets have elliptical orbits, see Kepler's First Law.
posted by Fat Guy at 1:07 AM on January 15, 2005


The sounds from the microphone are really creepy.
posted by vacapinta at 9:23 AM on January 15, 2005


I was walking along minding my business, when out of an orange colored sky
Flash, bam, alakazam, wonderful you came by,
I was humming a tune,
Drinking in sunshine, when out of that orange colored view
Wham, bam, alakazam, I got a look at you
One look and I yelled timber, watch out for flying glass
¡t caused the ceiling fell in and the bottom fell out, I went into a spin
And I started to shout, I’ve been hit, this is it, this is it
I was walking along minding my business, when love came and hit me in the eye
Flash, bam, alakazam, out of an orange colored sky

Musical interlude

Well, one look and I yelled timber, watch out for flying glass
it caused the ceiling fell in and the bottom fell out, I went into a spin
And I started to shout I’ve been hit, this is it, this is it
I was walking along, minding my business, when love came and hit me in the eye
Flash, bam, alakazam, out of an orange, colored, purple stripes
Pretty green polka dot sky, flash, bam, alakazam, went the sky
posted by black8 at 10:08 AM on January 15, 2005


I could while away the hours conferrin' with the flowers,
Consulting with the rain;
And my head I'd be a scratchin' while my thoughts were busy hatchin'
if I only had a brain.

posted by y2karl at 3:29 PM on January 15, 2005


Here's a example of the sorry state of science journalism, from the venerable NYT, no less:
A recording of the sound of Huygens plunging through the ever denser air, as reconstructed from sensor data, was played at the briefing. A pilot on board would have heard the howling of a terrible windstorm and, just before landing, the beat of radar signals searching for the surface.—John Noble Wilford, "Titan's Big News: A Mysterious Shoreline", New York Times, January 16, 2005 (emphasis added)
When I read that, I thought, "WTF?".

Here's the text explaining an audio file available from the ESA:
2. Radar echos from Titan's surface
This recording was produced by converting into audible sounds some of the radar echoes received by Huygens during the last few kilometres of its descent onto Titan. As the probe approaches the ground, both the pitch and intensity increase. Scientists will use intensity of the echoes to speculate about the nature of the surface.—ESA News, "Sounds of an alien world", 15 January 2005 (emphasis added)
So, I suppose this conversion was played at the news conference. With inadequate or misleading explanation? Possibly. But a science journalist should have caught it regardless. Perhaps this is not Wilford's fault, but the result of an ignorant editor. Either way, it's egregious.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:12 PM on January 15, 2005


Isn't it amazing how we can take a probe the size of a compact car, send it on a 7 year journey in the most inhospitable environment imaginable, deploy a sub-probe that has been dormant for that entire time and land it where we had planned on another solar body so far away that it takes 67 minutes to get a signal back and forth...

But we still can't make a toilet that doesn't back up.
posted by TiredStarling at 11:23 PM on January 15, 2005


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