A soft solid surface on Titan as revealed by the Huygens Surface Science Package

John C. Zarnecki*, Mark R. Leese, Brijen Hathi, Andrew J. Ball, Axel Hagermann, Martin C. Towner, Ralph D. Lorenz, J. Anthony M. McDonnell, Simon F. Green, Manish R. Patel, Timothy J. Ringrose, Philip D. Rosenberg, Karl R. Atkinson, Mark D. Paton, Marek Banaszkiewicz, Benton C. Clark, Francesca Ferri, Marcello Fulchignoni, Nadeem A.L. Ghafoor, Günter KarglHåkan Svedhem, John Delderfield, Manuel Grande, David J. Parker, Peter G. Challenor, John E. Geake

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

The surface of Saturn's largest satellite - Titan - is largely obscured by an optically thick atmospheric haze, and so its nature has been the subject of considerable speculation and discussion1. The Huygens probe entered Titan's atmosphere on 14 January 2005 and descended to the surface using a parachute system2. Here we report measurements made just above and on the surface of Titan by the Huygens Surface Science Package3,4. Acoustic sounding over the last 90 m above the surface reveals a relatively smooth, but not completely flat, surface surrounding the landing site. Penetrometry and accelerometry measurements during the probe impact event reveal that the surface was neither hard (like solid ice) nor very compressible (like a blanket of fluffy aerosol); rather, the Huygens probe landed on a relatively soft solid surface whose properties are analogous to wet clay, lightly packed snow and wet or dry sand. The probe settled gradually by a few millimetres after landing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-795
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume438
Issue number7069
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 08 Dec 2005

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