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Huygens Landing on Titan - Computer generated movies

False color image of Titan to enhance surface details After a journey of seven years with companion Cassini, the Huygens space probe landed on Titan's surface on January 14, 2005. The space probe sent back around 350 images from Saturn's moon Titan to mother ship Cassini, which relayed data back to Earth. Unfortunately, half of the data went lost. Cassini never listened to channel A because of a software error. More information on this is available on the Wikipedia.

Saturn Aurora as viewed by the Hubble Space Telescope The quality of the images was somehow poor, probably limited by data transmission issues, crash resistance and overall complexity constraints. Following others (and in particular Anthony Liekens), some of us (Rene and MM) asked what was possible to enhance somehow the Huygens raw images. With Terragen, we have a powerful landscape generator in our hands, and the GPU system is able to distribute the workload of generating fractal images from different points of view on our little cluster.

Since we are enthousiasts and not professionals, the movies presented here are very likely to be incorrect. We would be glad to receive suggestions on how to improve them on our mailing list. The terrain files used to produce the following movies are here.

May 2006: At best you can compare the movies we did in February 2005 (published at the bottom of this site) with the official Huygens Landing movie done by Imaginova/ESA/Nasa JPL.

First movie: Ride on Titan's Rivers

Delta of river as seen from Huygens Shoreline seen from Huygens during descent (mosaic) Movie frame by nanobit

The movie (frame right) was generated using the left image as terrain. The middle image was used to get a rough idea of the shoreline's height. Sun disk size was 10% of size on Earth, being Saturn and its Moon Titan roughly ten times farther away from Sun than Earth. This movie is by Rene.

We asked Wes for some more scientific detail. Here an excerpt of his answer: I don't know much about Methan except it melts at -183, boils at -161, and its liquid density is 0.54gm/cc. Thus, most of the methane should be near a liquid/ice transition since Titan's mean temp is -180C. The diameter is ~5200 km, and atmosphere ~200 km thick. I would be very suprised if Saturn were not visible thru its atmosphere when it's directly overhead, but maybe only then. ... The atmosphere is quite thick for Titan's size, so the dominant colors are likely white/red. Its pressure is very high ~1.5 bar, amazing since gravity is so weak. Unfortunately, we still cannot render Saturn with Terragen, maybe with Terragen 2, who knows.

An interesting article is Titan moon occupies 'sweet spot'.

Second movie: Titan's flat surface

Titan's crater carted by Cassini Huygens landing site a frame from MM movie

We are not sure which terrain MM used exactly to compose this movie (MM please contact us thx!). Colors are similar to the image in the middle, taken by Huygens at the landing site. We attached the sound of Huygens space probe to the movie, available at the ESA site, in the section Sounds of an alien world.

Future work on this topic?

If you have some more terrains, ideas or details you would like to be corrected (e.g. color of methan river) let us know on the mailing list. We have some power left on the cluster and our computers are happy to steam like motives. For the time being, we give you two pictures as source of inspiration. The first one is in the public domain and was done by NASA, the second one is copyrighted by ESA. The Cassini/Huygens mission is a collaboration between NASA and ESA. GPU is an Open Source project to achieve distributed computing on a peer-to-peer cluster. If you would like to join us, you can download the client here.

Cassini during orbit insertion Huygens shortly before landing
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