Mar. 15 & 16
Titan, Saturn's largest moon and the only moon in the solar system enshrouded in a thick atmosphere, has fascinated observers since its discovery in 1655. We'll begin with the discovery of Titan by Christiaan Huygens and quickly cover all the major scientific discoveries about this intriguing moon right up to the amazing results that are flowing back now from the Cassini-Huygens Mission. The Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn, a joint NASA-ESA-ASI mission, was launched in 1997 and reached Saturn in July of 2004. The Huygens probe, released from the Cassini orbiter on Christmas day of that same year, drifted down to the surface of Titan on January 14th of 2005, returning spectacular images and data to a world-wide audience. The Cassini orbiter has gone on to complete almost 80 close flybys of Titan and has revealed the surface, which is normally hidden by a thick nitrogen-rich atmosphere filled with aerosols, to be a complex, exciting, and remarkably earth-like place. There are miles and miles of dunes, lakes of methane and ethane, and exotic features that might possibly be ice volcanoes. The atmosphere itself is more dense than Earth's and is a soup of complex hydrocarbons. Humanity has been fascinated by the solar system’s second largest moon for hundreds of years; and we're sitting at a ring-side seat as Titan reveals its mysteries to us.
Astronomer working on the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn and the Co-chair of the Titan Orbiter Science Team.