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.

2005 January 19
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Eight Kilometers Above Titan
Credit: ESA, NASA, Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer Team (LPL)

Explanation: What are these surface features on Titan? Scroll right to see the panoramic view captured last week by the Huygens probe as it descended toward Saturn's mysterious moon. Scientists are not yet sure what the above image is showing. On the far left, a boundary seems to exist between some sort of smooth dark terrain and a type of choppier terrain in the distance. In the image center and on the left, white areas cover the image that might be a type of ground fog. The Huygens probe landed in the dark area of the far right, finding a portion of Titan's surface that had the consistency of wet sand and a surface temperature of -179 degrees Celsius. Huygen's battery lasted an unexpectedly long three hours as it beamed back images and data to the Saturn-orbiting Cassini mothership and an armada of Earth's most sensitive radio telescopes. Analysis of the Huygens' images will likely continue for years in attempts to better understand this cloud-engulfed moon.

Tomorrow's picture: dangerous air

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