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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Huygens Probe lands on Titan!!

The Huygens probe has successfully descended by parachute to the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and the only one in the solar system with a substantial atmosphere, an atmosphere thick enough to permanently conceal its surface. What Titan has looked like under those clouds has been nothing but speculation for hundreds of years.

The following images are among the first to be sent back. Thanks to the Mars Society for putting them online so fast.

The photo below was taken as Huygens was descending to the surface. In it you can see patterns of channels that might be a result of drainage of some liquid on the surface. Given the temperatures, pressures and composition of the atmosphere, the liquid might have been some sort of hydrocarbon, like liquid ethane, draining into the dark "sea" on the right.

The following image taken on the surface shows distinctly rounded ice blocks, or maybe rocks. A liquid would be the most likely agent responsible for eroding the blocks to their present shape, but the data needs to be examined more closely before anything definitive can be said. Seas of liquid ethane? Rivers of

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I'm wondering if that's actually an open sea on the right of the first image, or just thinner ice. Is that an actual photograph, or a radar image? Because with radar, thinner ice absorbs the waves to a greater degree than thick ice, and so it appears darker in the image. But you probably knew that already. :)

(I should show you the paper I wrote when I worked for RADARSAT, entitled "An Evaluation Of The Usefulness Of Texture In Classification Of Remotely Sensed Imagery". :) )

I didn't know you once worked for RADARSAT! What exactly did you do?

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