January 15, 2005 in Nation/World

First images beamed from Titan after Huygens probe lands safely

By Bryn Nelson Newsday
Associated Press photo

This European Space Agency image shows the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan with ice blocks strewn around.
(Full-size photo)

After a seven-year trip through outer space, the Huygens space probe successfully completed the last leg of its epic voyage to Titan on Friday, releasing initial black and white images that brought tears to the eyes of the mission’s scientists.

Taken from 10 miles above Saturn’s mysterious moon, one picture shows what appear to be short drainage channels heading to a coastline, perhaps carved by liquids such as methane. Another image, from five miles above Titan, portrays what researchers said might be flooded plains and shorelines. A third depicts a surface strewn with blocks of frozen liquid.

Scientists said they were “astonished” by the images. Hundreds more are expected.

“So we are the very first visitors of Titan, and that scientific data that we are collecting now shall unveil the secrets of this new world,” declared a jubilant Jean-Jacques Dordain, the European Space Agency’s director general.

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