Monday, January 17, 2005


Pictures From Saturn

NASA's web page for the Cassini-Huygens mission has some recently-posted pics returned from the Huygens probe's plunge into Titan's atmosphere. This mission doesn't seem to be getting the same attention as last year's mission to Mars, but is no less relevant - it's thought that Titan's surface conditions might be very much like Earth's, approximately 4 billion years ago (if maybe a bit colder).

And about that cold - it's something like -290 F. While the probe was built with its instruments within a protective outer shell, one can still imagine that it's no small feat to survive that sort of cold for any length of time, especially with electrochemical batteries (let's not forget the atmosphere, which with its methane gases and hydrocarbon rain probably resembles northern Indiana on a summer day). Yet, the probe survived the 2.5-hour descent and another 90 minutes on the surface before finally giving up the fight.

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