The Huygens experience

A new rendering of Huygens descent and touchdown created using real data recorded by the probe’s instruments as it descended to the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, on 14 January 2005.
The animation takes into account Titan’s atmospheric conditions, including the Sun and wind direction, the behaviour of the parachute (with some artistic interpretation only on the movement of the ropes after touchdown), and the dynamics of the landing itself. Even the stones immediately facing Huygens were rendered to match the photograph of the landing site returned from the probe, which is revealed at the end of the animation.
Split into four sequences, the animation first shows a wide-angle view of the descent and landing followed by two close-ups of the touchdown from different angles, and finally a simulated view from Huygens itself — the true Huygens experience.
This animation was released on the eighth anniversary of Huygen’s touchdown on Titan as a Space Science Image of the Week feature.

Animation: ESA–C. Carreau/Schröder, Karkoschka et al (2012). Image from Titan’s surface: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Life ‘not as we know it’ possible on Saturn’s moon Titan


States of acrylonitrile. (A) Azotosome. Interlocking nitrogen and hydrogen atoms reinforce the structure. (B) Solid. Adjacent nitrogen atoms create some unfavorable repulsion. (C) Micelle. Adjacent nitrogen atoms make this highly unfavorable. (D) Azotosome vesicle of diameter 90 Å, the size of a small virus particle.

Liquid water is a requirement for life on Earth. But in other, much colder worlds, life might exist beyond the bounds of water-based chemistry.

Taking a simultaneously imaginative and rigidly scientific view, Cornell chemical engineers and astronomers offer a template for life that could thrive in a harsh, cold world – specifically Titan, the giant moon of Saturn. A planetary body awash with seas not of water, but of liquid methane, Titan could harbor methane-based, oxygen-free cells that metabolize, reproduce and do everything life on Earth does.

Their theorized cell membrane, composed of small organic nitrogen compounds and capable of functioning in liquid methane temperatures of 292 degrees below zero, is published in Science Advances, Feb. 27. The work is led by chemical molecular dynamics expert Paulette Clancy, the Samuel W. and Diane M. Bodman Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, with first author James Stevenson, a graduate student in chemical engineering. The paper’s co-author is Jonathan Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Astronomy.

Membrane alternatives in worlds without oxygen: Creation of an azotosome“, , ,

Lunine is an expert on Saturn’s moons and an interdisciplinary scientist on the Cassini-Huygens mission that discovered methane-ethane seas on Titan. Intrigued by the possibilities of methane-based life on Titan, and armed with a grant from the Templeton Foundation to study non-aqueous life, Lunine sought assistance about a year ago from Cornell faculty with expertise in chemical modeling. Clancy, who had never met Lunine, offered to help. Continue reading Life ‘not as we know it’ possible on Saturn’s moon Titan


Cassini Watches Mysterious Feature Evolve in Titan Sea

These three images, created from Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data, show the appearance and evolution of a mysterious feature in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest hydrocarbon seas on Saturn's moon Titan. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell

These three images, created from Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data, show the appearance and evolution of a mysterious feature in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest hydrocarbon seas on Saturn’s moon Titan. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is monitoring the evolution of a mysterious feature in a large hydrocarbon sea on Saturn’s moon Titan. The feature covers an area of about 100 square miles (260 square kilometers) in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest seas on Titan. It has now been observed twice by Cassini’s radar experiment, but its appearance changed between the two apparitions….
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Humans could fly on Saturn’s moon Titan

P5_1 You can fly
flying on titan

H.Lerman, B.Irwin, P.Hicks

Many humans dream of flying like a bird. Although it is not possible on Earth, it is on Titan.
This paper explores the dimensions of a wingsuit allowing a human to easily take-off from the surface
of Titan.
It was calculated that the wing area would be approximately 4.7 m2 assuming an initial run up speed of 6m/s.
This value is larger than the average wingsuit wing area of 1.4 m2.
For this area the human will have to run at a speed of 11 m/s, which has only been reached by a small number of humans….
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Titan’s Fancy Collar

titanTitan’s polar collar — previously seen by Voyager 2 and the Hubble Space Telescope — has now been observed by the Cassini spacecraft, seen here in ultraviolet light. The collar is believed to be seasonal in nature. Researchers are still studying its cause and evolution.

This view looks toward the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Titan. North on Titan is up and rotated 32 degrees to the right. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on April 13, 2013 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of ultraviolet light centered at 338 nanometers.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) from Titan and at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 4 degrees. Image scale is 7 miles (11 kilometers) per pixel.

Read more at and

Cassini Suggests Icing on a Lake

The icebergs of Titan: Astronomers say hydrocarbon blocks could contain ‘exotic form of life’

An artist's impression of the hydrocarbon 'icebergs' on Titan scientists believe could harbour an exotic form of life

An artist’s impression of the hydrocarbon ‘icebergs’ on Titan scientists believe could harbour an exotic form of life

Researchers believe the lakes and seas could contain life due to their unique chemistry
Believe ice could be colourless, but appear reddish-brown due to Titan’s atmosphere

Saturn’s moon Titan is home to lakes of massive hydrocarbon ‘icebergs’ that could form exotic forms of life, scientists have claimed.
Nasa researchers say the new theory may also explain bizarre reading from the vast lakes and seas on the moon.
‘One of the most intriguing questions about these lakes and seas is whether they might host an exotic form of life,’ said Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University, who co-authored the study.

Titan is the only other body besides Earth in our solar system with stable bodies of liquid on its surface.
However, while our planet’s cycle of precipitation and evaporation involves water, Titan’s cycle involves hydrocarbons like ethane and methane.
Ethane and methane are organic molecules, which scientists think can be building blocks for the more complex chemistry from which life arose.

Cassini has seen a vast network of these hydrocarbon seas cover Titan’s northern hemisphere, while a more sporadic set of lakes bejewels the southern hemisphere.
Cassini scientists assumed that Titan lakes would not have floating ice, because solid methane is denser than liquid methane and would sink.

But the new model, revealed today, considers the interaction between the lakes and the atmosphere, resulting in different mixtures of compositions, pockets of nitrogen gas, and changes in temperature.
The result, scientists found, is that winter ice will float in Titan’s methane-and-ethane-rich lakes and seas if the temperature is below the freezing point of methane — minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit (90.4 Kelvins).
‘We now know it’s possible to get methane-and-ethane-rich ice freezing over on Titan in thin blocks that congeal together as it gets colder — similar to what we see with Arctic sea ice at the onset of winter,’ said Jason Hofgartner, first author on the paper and a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada scholar at Cornell.
‘We’ll want to take these conditions into consideration if we ever decide to explore the Titan surface some day.’