a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Cassini-Huygens, Titan / Opportunity, Mars

Posted by Thomas Nephew on November 12th, 2007

Movie built from telemetry data during the descent of the ESA probe “Huygens” to the surface of Titan. Some Brian Eno type had the nice idea of associating the activation of different mechanisms on board the Huygens with specific musical tones and colors:

This movie, built with data collected during the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe on Jan. 14, 2005, shows the operation of the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer camera during its descent and after touchdown. The camera was funded by NASA.

The almost four-hour-long operation of the camera is shown in less than five minutes. That’s 40 times the actual speed up to landing and 100 times the actual speed thereafter. […]

Sounds from a left speaker trace Huygens’ motion, with tones changing with rotational speed and the tilt of the parachute. There also are clicks that clock the rotational counter, as well as sounds for the probe’s heat shield hitting Titan’s atmosphere, parachute deployments, heat shield release, jettison of the camera cover and touchdown.


Sounds from a right speaker go with the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer activity. There’s a continuous tone that represents the strength of Huygens’ signal to Cassini. Then there are 13 different chimes – one for each of instrument’s 13 different science parts – that keep time with flashing-white-dot exposure counters. During its descent, the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer took 3,500 exposures.

The “instrumentation” sidebar panels are also explained. For a sense of Titan’s strangeness, watch the ESA video “Huygens on Titan: one year after“; the planet seems to have a liquid methane cycle the way Earth has a water cycle: methane-soaked “mud,” methane rivers, methane clouds, methanefall.

Meanwhile, on Mars, the Opportunity and Spirit rovers keep on ticking, with the Opportunity rover poised to enter Victoria Crater via “Duck Bay,” the safest (rockiest, most shallow sloped) entry point to the crater:

For the current state of the mission, visit the JPL “Mars Exploration Rover Mission” web site.

NOTES: Cassini Huygens video via commenter sglover; that and “methanefall” link via Thoreau (“Unqualified Offerings”). Other posts at this site mentioning Cassini-Huygens: 2005/01/15: “Touchdown on Titan: Bravo Cassini-Huygens!“; 2004/12/09: “Rings, shadows, moon,” a beautiful image of Saturn’s rings.

UPDATE, 11/12: There is some nice footage from Mission Control at JPL from when the rover landed back in January 25, 2004 and started transmitting. Give those folks a hand. Man, Gore is everywhere, isn’t he? See also a favorite video of mine (also on YouTube): “Six Minutes of Terror” — as well as this funny animation.

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