ESA shows off Titanic views

Composite postcard from Saturnian moon

The European Space Agency has released a new image of the surface of Titan. The composite shot, made from a jigsaw puzzle of 30 images, shows the moon from a height of around ten kilometres, just over a kilometre higher than Everest.

Composite image of Titan's surface taken during descent. Source: ESA

The pictures were actually snapped as the probe fell from an altitude of 13km to eight kilometres. The pictures are all at a resolution of 20m per pixel, and the area photographed extends out to 30 km, ESA says.

The mission has been hailed as a resounding success, with messages of congratulations being offered to ESA from all involved. NASA's chief administrator Sean O'Keefe said: "We're very proud of the Cassini-Huygens teams that helped to make this both an engineering and scientific victory."

The only blot on an otherwise unmarred landscape is the loss of one of the two data channels returning information to Cassini. The data loss means that only half the 700 hoped-for images have been returned to Earth.

Professor David Southwood, ESA's director of science, said that the problem was caused by human error, and was ESA's responsibility. An investigation into the failure has been launched.

Based on the initial results, scientists said the probe had landed on a solid-ish surface with a consistency of Creme Brulee. Colour images reveal the world to be dominated by its orange atmosphere, with hazy marmalade skies above a boulder strewn surface. ®

All the images from Huygen's descent can be found here.

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