The descent imager/spectral radiometer (DISR) experiment on the huygens entry probe of titan

M. G. Tomasko, D. Buchhauser, M. Bushroe, L. E. Dafoe, L. R. Doose, A. Eibl, C. Fellows, E. McFarlane, G. M. Prout, M. J. Pringle, B. Rizk, C. See, P. H. Smith, K. Tsetsenekos

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46 Scopus citations


The payload of the Huygens Probe into the atmosphere of Titan includes the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR). This instrument includes an integrated package of several optical instruments built around a silicon charge coupled device (CCD) detector, a pair of linear InGaAs array detectors, and several individual silicon detectors. Fiber optics are used extensively to feed these detectors with light collected from three frame imagers, an upward and downward-looking visible spectrometer, an upward and downward looking near-infrared spectrometer, upward and downward looking violet phtotometers, a four-channel solar aerole camera, and a sun sensor that determines the azimuth and zenith angle of the sun and measures the flux in the direct solar beam at 940 nm. An onboard optical calibration system uses a small lamp and fiber optics to track the relative sensitivity of the different optical instruments relative to each other during the seven year cruise to Titan. A 20 watt lamp and collimator are used to provide spectrally continuous illumination of the surface during the last 100 m of the descent for measurements of the reflection spectrum of the surface. The instrument contains software and hardware data compressors to permit measurements of upward and downward direct and diffuse solar flux between 350 and 1700 nm in some 330 spectral bands at approximately 2 km vertical resolution from an alititude of 160 km to the surface. The solar aureole camera measures the brightness of a 6° wide strip of the sky from 25 to 75° zenith angle near and opposite the azimuth of the sun in two passbands near 500 and 935 nm using vertical and horizontal polarizers in each spectral channel at a similar vertical resolution. The downward-looking spectrometers provide the reflection spectrum of the surface at a total of some 600 locations between 850 and 1700 nm and at more than 3000 locations between 480 and 960 nm. Some 500 individual images of the surface are expected which can be assembled into about a dozen panoramic mosaics covering nadir angles from 6° to 96° at all azimuths. The spatial resolution of the images varies from 300 m at 160 km altitude to some 20 cm in the last frames. The scientific objectives of the experiment fall into four areas including (1) measurement of the solar heating profile for studies of the thermal balance of Titan; (2) imaging and spectral reflection measurements of the surface for studies of the composition, topography, and physical processes which form the surface as well as for direct measurements of the wind profile during the descent; (3) measurements of the brightness and degree of linear polarization of scattered sunlight including the solar aureole together with measurements of the extinction optical depth of the aerosols as a function of wavelength and altitude to study the size, shape, vertical distribution, optical properties, sources and sinks of aerosols in Titan's atmosphere; and (4) measurements of the spectrum of downward solar flux to study the composition of the atmosphere, especially the mixing ratio profile of methane throughout the descent. We briefly outline the methods by which the flight instrument was calibrated for absolute response, relative spectral response, and field of view over a very wide temperature range. We also give several examples of data collected in the Earth's atmosphere using a spare instrument including images obtained from a helicopter flight program, reflection spectra of various types of terrain, solar aureole measurements including the determination of aerosol size, and measurements of the downward flux of violet, visible, and near infrared sunlight. The extinction optical depths measured as a function of wavelength are compared to models of the Earth's atmosphere and are divided into contributions from molecular scattering, aerosol extinction, and molecular absorption. The test observations during simulated descents with mountain and rooftop venues in the Earth's atmosphere are very important for driving out problems in the calibration and interpretion of the observations to permit rapid analysis of the observations after Titan entry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-551
Number of pages83
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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    Tomasko, M. G., Buchhauser, D., Bushroe, M., Dafoe, L. E., Doose, L. R., Eibl, A., Fellows, C., McFarlane, E., Prout, G. M., Pringle, M. J., Rizk, B., See, C., Smith, P. H., & Tsetsenekos, K. (2002). The descent imager/spectral radiometer (DISR) experiment on the huygens entry probe of titan. Space Science Reviews, 104(1-4), 469-551.