Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2013 January 21

Huygens: Titan Descent Movie
Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/U. Arizona; Music: Beethoven's Piano Concerto #4; YouTube Upload: djxatlanta,

Explanation: What would it look like to land on Saturn's moon Titan? The European Space Agency's Huygens probe set down on the Solar System's cloudiest moon in 2005, and a time-lapse video of its descent images was created. Huygens separated from the robotic Cassini spacecraft soon after it achieved orbit around Saturn in late 2004 and began approaching Titan. For two hours after arriving, Huygens plummeted toward Titan's surface, recording at first only the shrouded moon's opaque atmosphere. The computerized truck-tire sized probe soon deployed a parachute to slow its decent, pierced the thick clouds, and began transmitting images of a strange surface far below never before seen in visible light. Landing in a dried sea and surviving for 90 minutes, Huygen's return unique images of a strange plain of dark sandy soil strewn with smooth, bright, fist-sized rocks of ice.

Tomorrow's picture: star wall

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