(ORDO NEWS) — On October 15, 1997, the Cassini spacecraft was launched to the Saturn system, a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
Cassini not only carried a huge amount of instruments and cameras on board, it also took with it the Huygens probe, developed by ESA with the support of NASA.
On July 1, 2004, Cassini-Huygens entered the orbit of Saturn, and on December 25 of the same year, Huygens separated from the main apparatus and headed towards Titan.
On January 14, 2005, exactly 18 years ago, Huygens began re-entry into the satellite’s atmosphere. After 2 hours 27 minutes 50 seconds, the probe landed in an area that was later named Xanadu.
It was the first – and so far remains the last – landing in the outer solar system in the history of mankind.
During the descent, Huygens collected atmospheric samples, and this made it possible to establish that the dense clouds of Titan are a methane haze.
The presence of nitrogen was detected. When the probe began its journey to the surface, the onboard instruments measured the temperature, which was -202 degrees Celsius.
On the surface, this figure increased to -179 degrees.
The pictures from which the video of the descent was made showed a very complex terrain, reminiscent in many respects of the earth.
In addition, traces of liquid activity (river beds and a “coastline” contrasting between light and dark areas) got into the frame, which is represented not by water, but by a “cocktail” of liquid hydrocarbons – methane and ethane.
Titan is the second object in the solar system, after the Earth, where the presence of liquid on the surface has been proven.
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