What happens when art meets reality? In the case of The Planetary
Society’s international Titan art contest, it merits a special prize for
the artwork that most closely resembles any portion of the actual Titan
landscape or atmosphere imaged by the European Space Agency’s Huygens
probe during its final stages of descent.

David Ziels of Columbus, Ohio won the special prize in the adult category
with his painting of the surface entitled “Titan Revealed,” and 15-
year-old Chelsey Tyler of Harrisburg, North Carolina won the special prize
in the youth category. Tyler’s depiction of the Huygens probe descending
through the atmosphere also won her the grand prize in the Society’s art
contest, “Imagining Titan: Artists Peer Beneath the Veil”- a trip to
Huygens Mission Control Center in Darmstadt, Germany for the spacecraft’s
encounter. View all the winning art at our website at

Not only do we now have a clearer picture of what Huygens saw on its
descent to Saturn’s moon, but we also have a better idea of how the probe
sounded when it bumped down on Titan’s surface, thanks to a newly
processed sound file of the landing available on The Planetary Society’s
website at http://planetary.org/sounds/.

“Huygens has given us the chance to get to know mysterious Titan better
through both sights and sounds,” said Planetary Society Director of
Projects Bruce Betts. “Both have been exhilarating.”

The Planetary Society teamed with ESA and the Huygens Atmospheric
Structure Instrument team to release the sounds recorded by the Huygens
probe during its descent through Titan’s atmosphere. The Huygens
Atmospheric Structure Instrument – HASI for short – was designed to
explore the temperature, pressure, density, and other physical properties
of Titan’s sky. Its acoustic sensor, or microphone, listened to the
entire descent, recording the average power across different sound
frequencies every two seconds. The Society worked with Greg Delory of the
University of California, Berkeley, to help process the data into actual

The new “bump” — landing sound — posted on the Society’s website was
produced by amplifying the short, higher pitched sounds by a factor of 10,
and compressing the sound from the multi-second average of the original
data into a fraction of a second, approximately the length of time that
the impact sound actually took. More details about the sound are found on
our web site at http://planetary.org/sounds/.

The Planetary Society’s art contest inspired 435 people from 35 countries
to submit imagined visions of Titan before Huygens landed on January 14,
2005. The camera images from the probe then needed to be interpreted
before the two judges – Cassini-Huygens scientists Jonathan Lunine and
Larry Soderblom – could determine which artworks most closely depicted the
moon’s actual atmosphere or surface features.

Ziels described the inspiration for his artwork, saying, “The impression I
came to was of a dry Mars-like world but more heavily weathered due to
the denser atmosphere. I felt that methane rain had probably played a
large part in forming the surface features and that methane precipitation
would wash any dark organic particles into lower lying areas. I also
thought that cryovolcanoes were a possibility so in the background of my
image you can see a plume rising high into to the atmosphere before being
sheared by stratospheric winds. ”

Lunine said, “David Ziel’s painting really jumped out at me. When I
looked at it, I said ‘This is the Huygens landing site!’ If you could sit
down on Titan and see things with your own human eyes, David’s painting
would capture it.”

About her painting, “Chaos Beneath the Veil,” Tyler stated, “I started on
the picture wanting to make a very dark and gloomy landscape, having read
that the probe will not be able to use solar power on the surface because
of the thickness of the atmosphere. When I realized that dark and gloomy
can also translate to boring and indistinct, I began to create contrast.
In the end, I had a more chaotic and much more interesting picture than
what I had originally envisioned.”

The Huygens probe is part of the four-year Cassini-Huygens mission to
Saturn. While ESA controls Huygens, NASA’s mission control for Cassini is
located at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The
Planetary Society’s website offers exclusive detailed chronological charts
of Cassini’s encounters with Saturn and its moons, including Titan. Visit
the mission tour page at http://planetary.org/saturn/cassini_tour.html.


Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, The Planetary Society has inspired
millions of people to explore other worlds and seek other life. Today, its
international membership makes the non-governmental Planetary Society the
largest space interest group in the world. Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and
Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in 1980.