Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Keck Telescope Captures Titan But Misses Huygens

Date:
January 24, 2005
Source:
University Of California, Berkeley
Summary:
Despite real though faint hopes, ground-based astronomers failed to see any sign of the Huygens probe's plunge into Titan's atmosphere, but they did obtain some near-infrared images of Saturn's largest moon at the moment of impact.

Near-infrared surface image of Titan captured with Keck adaptive optics system moments after the Huygens probe reached its target at 09:06 GMT January 14, 2005. The bright and dark patterns on Titan's surface may be regions of solid ice and of liquid hydrocarbons. No atmospheric disturbance was detected.
Credit: W. M. Keck Observatory

BERKELEY – Despite real though faint hopes, ground-based astronomers failed to see any sign of the Huygens probe's plunge into Titan's atmosphere today (Friday, Jan. 14), but they did obtain some near-infrared images of Saturn's largest moon at the moment of impact.

The images were captured by the world's largest telescope, the 10-meter Keck telescope seated atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The bright and dark patches on the surface were the only detail visible of the surface, with most features obscured by the moon's dense hydrocarbon haze.

"We did observe, as through a miracle we opened up (the telescope dome) in 40 to 50 mile-per-hour winds," said Imke de Pater, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley. " We didn't see anything, but just got context images – the only ones taken, I believe – during probe entry."

De Pater was one of a team of astronomers training the Keck telescope on Titan just after midnight in Hawaii to view Huygens pierce the atmosphere to start its two and a half hour descent to the surface.

Near-infrared images were taken from the W. M. Keck Observatory with the near infrared camera (NIRC2) and the adaptive optics system at the time of probe entry. The team had planned imaging sequences to look for thermal emissions or condensates at the probe entry site.

The probe, launched late last year by the Cassini mother ship, did send back photos from 10 miles above the surface that showed channels running through hilly terrain. And it apparently survived a landing, at least long enough to send back signals from the surface.

Titan is of particular interest to scientists because it is the only moon in our solar system with a dense, methane-rich, nitrogen atmosphere, reminiscent of our own atmosphere here on Earth. The moon is cloaked in a thick, smog-like haze produced by the breakup of methane by sunlight. Further study of this moon could provide clues to planetary formation and evolution and, perhaps, about the early days of Earth as well.

"Although no disturbances in Titan's atmosphere were detected, the observations provide the best images that characterize the satellite at the moment of probe entry," said Antonin Bouchez, a staff member at the Keck observatory who was leading the observing effort.

"It was worth getting up in the middle of the night for this historic moment," said Fred Chaffee, director of the Keck Observatory, "despite the bad weather on the mountain".

Winds were blowing at 40-50 m.p.h., while the mountaintop itself was still cloaked with snow and ice from a recent storm.

Other team members that participated in the observations were David LeMignant from the Keck Observatory and Michael Brown, a professor at Caltech.

For more on Keck observations of Titan before the arrival of Cassini and Huygens, see the story at http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2004/10/13_Huygens.shtml.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of California, Berkeley. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of California, Berkeley. "Keck Telescope Captures Titan But Misses Huygens." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050121110721.htm>.
University Of California, Berkeley. (2005, January 24). Keck Telescope Captures Titan But Misses Huygens. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050121110721.htm
University Of California, Berkeley. "Keck Telescope Captures Titan But Misses Huygens." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050121110721.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins