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On this date in space exploration… January 14, 2005

Landing of the Huygens probe on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Artist's concept of Cassinis Saturn Orbit Insertion

Titan, or Saturn VI, is the largest moon of Saturn.  It is the only natural satellite known to have a dense atmosphere, and the only object other than Earth for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found.

Titan in 2005 by Cassini spacecraft

True-color image of layers of haze in Titans atmosphere

The Huygens probe was an atmospheric entry probe carried to Saturn’s moon Titan as part of the Cassini–Huygens mission. The probe was named after the 17th. century Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens.

Christiaan Huygens discovered Titan in 1655

The Cassini–Huygens spacecraft was launched from Earth on October 15, 1997.

Launch on October 15 1997 - Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Florida

Huygens separated from the Cassini orbiter on December 25, 2004, and landed on Titan, near the Xanadu region, on January 14, 2005.

An actual-size replica of the probe 1.3 metres across

Contrast-enhanced version of surface image

Coloured image released from the landing site

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in the Solar System, after Jupiter.  The planet, named after the Roman god Saturn, is classified as a gas giant; it has an average radius of about nine times that of Earth.

A global storm girdles Saturn in 2011

Saturn System Montage - satellites Dione Tethys Mimas Enceladus Rhea and Titan images taken by Voyager 1 November 1980

Additional information may be found at – 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassini%E2%80%93Huygens
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huygens_(spacecraft)
 

(All images are in the public domain)

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