Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UK scientists get a "whiff" of Titan’s surface

24.01.2005


Further insights into Titan were unveiled today (21st January 2005) as scientists involved in the joint NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens mission presented further results and images a week to the day after the successful descent and arrival of the Huygens probe on the surface of Saturn’s largest moon.



Principal Investigator for the Huygens Surface Science Package [SSP], Professor John Zarnecki from the Open University, Milton Keynes, has spent the last week with his team analysing and interpreting the data.

Speaking at a press briefing from ESA’s Headquarters in Paris he said: “The Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer has detected a ‘whiff’ of methane evaporating off the surface and the SSP data has also shown indications of gas flowing into its sensing area. These gaseous outbursts were released as heat generated by Huygens warmed the soil beneath the probe. This is a tantalising glimpse of the processes at work on Titan and shows how the weather systems operate with methane forming clouds and raining down on to the surface - producing the drainage channels, river beds and other features that we see in the images.


We are continuing to analyse the data from our penetrometer - the very first instrument to touch the surface of Titan - it then pushed through the crust to a depth of 10 to 15cm. Results indicate that beneath the thin crust lies a material with the consistency of sand or clay - but made of water ice grains rather than the rock grains that we find on Earth.”

Prof. Zarnecki added, “All of the instruments are producing intriguing results which, when combined, will begin to build a fascinating picture of this exotic World - with its unique geology, geography and even meteorology. The more we see the more there is to find out. We have only looked at a fraction of the data received - there is much more to study.”

After a 4 billion kilometre journey through the Solar System that lasted almost 7 years, the Huygens probe plunged into the hazy atmosphere of Titan at 10.13 GMT on 14th January 2005. It landed safely on the surface at 12.45 GMT with an impact speed of 5m per second. It continued transmitting from the surface for several hours, even after the Cassini orbiter dropped below the horizon and stopped recording data to relay back to Earth. The Surface Science Package of instruments on Huygens received 1 hour, 9 minutes and 36 seconds worth of data from the surface.

The science data received by Huygens will provide the vital ‘ground truth’ for the Cassini spacecraft as it continues its scientific observations of Titan during its 4-year tour of Saturn.

The Surface Science Package, designed and assembled in the UK (in partnership with ESTEC and SRC Warsaw), was the first part of the Huygens probe to make contact with Titan’s surface.

Julia Maddock | alfa
Further information:
http://www.pparc.ac.uk/Nw/titan_whiff.asp
http://saturn.esa.int

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather
25.07.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht A new level of magnetic saturation
25.07.2017 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather

25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Strength of tectonic plates may explain shape of the Tibetan Plateau, study finds

25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

The dense vessel network regulates formation of thrombocytes in the bone marrow

25.07.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>