Huygens Spacecraft Uncovered Surprising Discoveries On Saturn's Hazy Moon, Titan
European Space Agency's Huygens spacecraft landed on Saturn's hazy moon, Titan, on Jan. 14, 2005. It has been 15 years since then that Huygens gathered surprising data of the mysterious Titan moon.
Huygens is considered the first spacecraft to land on an object in the outer solar system. Its touchdown on Titan is the most distant landing ever achieved by mankind. It gathered data on Titan that could aid the scientists of looking for possibly an alien world.
Sarah Horst, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University, said that Titan is kind of a double ocean world. She further said that in principle, there is the possibility that it has both life as they know it and life as they don't know it.
Titan harbors oily seas on its surface and a buried ocean of liquid water. These make it the best place to look for life besides the planet Earth.
The hazy moon is about 900 million miles from the Sun and 3,200 miles wide. Its temperatures are so low that ice could turn into rock and about hundreds of degrees below zero. The organic compounds such as methane and ethane, which are normally gases on the planet Earth, are frozen into liquids that flow into big lakes and seas. It is more like a planet than just another dead moon, according to National Geographic.
Carolyn Porco, the Cassini imaging team lead, said that the Huygens images were everything their images from orbit were not. She further said that instead of hazy, sinuous features that they could only guess were streams and drainage channels. There was incontrovertible evidence that at some point in Titan's history or now, there were flowing liquid hydrocarbons on the surface. She added that Huygens' images became a Rosetta stone for helping them interpret their subsequent findings on Titan, according to Popular Mechanics.