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Celebrating Cassini

Saturn and Titan

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

As the enduringly successful Cassini-Huygens mission swoops ever closer to Saturn, RAS President John Zarnecki looks back at what it has uncovered about the surprisingly complex moon, Titan.

When the Cassini-Huygens mission was first contemplated, Saturn's largest moon Titan was a world of mystery. A thick atmosphere – in itself odd for a moon – was tinged orange with what was presumed to be photochemical smog, making it a possible analogue for the young Earth, albeit rather colder. Calculations suggested that there could be liquid on the surface, making the design of the Huygens lander and its instruments something of a challenge – but one that the mission team rose to. In his Presidential Address, Zarnecki covers the triumph of landing on another body some 1.4 billion kilometres away, not to mention mapping its surface and substantial lakes, in his highlights of the mission, free to read on A&G OnLine. Alongside his article, you will also find overviews of the whole Cassini-Huygens mission, the surprises found by the magnetometer team and the growing understanding of the structure of Saturn's atmosphere – all areas where UK researchers have made significant contributions and continue to do so in current missions to Jupiter.  

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