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Australian telescopes ready for historic space mission

12 January 2005

Radio telescopes of CSIRO and the University of Tasmania stand ready to follow the European Space Agency's Huygens probe as it plummets through the clouds of Saturn's moon Titan, late on Friday night (14 January) Australian time.

Shortly after 9 pm AEDT the probe will start its descent through the clouds of Titan, 1.2 billion kilometres from Earth. Using a special technique called VLBI, a network of 17 radio telescopes in Australia, the USA, China and Japan will attempt to determine its entry point to within a kilometre.

As it parachutes down, the Huygens probe will transmit data to its parent Cassini orbiter. The ground-based telescopes will eavesdrop on the probe's signal.

The goal is to track the probe's speed and position as it falls, to learn about the winds in Titan's atmosphere.

The Australian radio telescopes taking part are:

* CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope (near Parkes, NSW)
* CSIRO's Mopra telescope (near Coonabarabran, NSW)
* CSIRO's Australia Telescope Compact Array (near Narrabri, NSW)
* The University of Tasmania's Mount Pleasant Observatory (Hobart, Tasmania)
* The University of Tasmania's Ceduna antenna (Ceduna, South Australia).

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Added by Helen Sim on 2005-01-17

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