This image was returned yesterday, January 14, 2005, by the European Space Agency's Huygens probe during its successful descent to land on Titan. This is the colored view, following processing to add reflection spectra data, and gives a better indication of the actual color of the surface.
Initially thought to be rocks or ice blocks, they are more pebble-sized. The two rock-like objects just below the middle of the image are about 15 centimeters (about 6 inches) (left) and 4 centimeters (about 1.5 inches) (center) across respectively, at a distance of about 85 centimeters (about 33 inches) from Huygens. The surface is darker than originally expected, consisting of a mixture of water and hydrocarbon ice. There is also evidence of erosion at the base of these objects, indicating possible fluvial activity.
The image was taken with the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer, one of two NASA instruments on the probe.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The Descent Imager/Spectral team is based at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm.
Image credit: ESA/NASA/Univ. of Arizona