Physical simulation reveals the true face of Titan

OPTIS transformed the optical data collected by NASA & ESA on the surface of TITAN—during the Cassini-Huygens mission- , in highly realistic images of the surface of this Saturn satellite

September 12th, 2017 | Partnership


Titan, a moon of Saturn, is the second largest satellite of the solar system. The presence of liquid, the composition of its atmosphere and its many similarities with Earth, make of this satellite the ideal candidate for a possible extraterrestrial life. However, this distant satellite remains for the moment inaccessible to human exploration. 


At least in real life. However, what about the virtual? Titan unveiled many of its secrets thanks to the Cassini-Huygens space mission, launched in 1997. The Cassini orbiter sent the probe, Huygens, to land on Titan more than one and a half billion kilometers from Earth. Cassini has since sent precise data of its environment, collected by NASA and ESA. In theory, it is possible to use this data to learn more about the appearance of Titan.


The OPTIS company, which creates realistic visualizations of the real world from physical data, took up the challenge.

Our reaction to request was, if we can do it on Earth, we can do it on Titan," 

says Jacques Delacour,CEO and founder of OPTIS. OPTIS used NASA and ESA data to recreate a realistic visualization of the light atmosphere and what a human could see on the surface of Titan, through physical simulation on High Performance computing (HPC) devices.


"Through these data, we knew how the sun illuminated Titan; we knew the spectral characteristics of its atmosphere and surface; but also how light is absorbed and diffused by the environment. We had all the necessary elements to simulate physically realistic renderings of the surface of Titan "

commented Vincent Hourdin, research engineer in charge of the TITAN project at OPTIS.

"We started with simple numbers, which we were able to transform into images with our cutting-edge technology. "


This challenge raised by OPTIS comes as part of a request by AGAT Films & Cie, a producer, and directors and screenwriters Jonathan Tavel and Frédéric Ramade, for their documentary Last call for Titan. The realistic simulations fromOPTIS allowed the documentary production team to color the images of the film for a more real-life space exploration.


Last call for TITAN will first be broadcast on France 5 this September 12th 2017 at 8:50p.m., in the box “Science Grand Format”. The film highlights the adventure of the space mission Cassini-Huygens, and offers tracks to discover the extent of the possibilities to come. The film is already planned to air in Japan, in the Middle East,in Greece and in the USA.



To close this project, Cassini-Huygens: the "Grand finale", held at the City of Science and Industry on September 15, will follow the Cassini scuttling live before attending the screening of the film Last call for Titan.

OPTIS will present its simulations of Titan as part of a virtual reality experience, offering participants an unprecedented, immersive exploration of Titan.






Last call for Titan, a film by Jonathan Tavel et Frédéric Ramade

Directed by Frédéric Ramade

Production: Blanche Guichou / AGAT Films & Cie

Coproduction: OPTIS & NHK

With the participation of France 5

With the support of the CNC (Centre National de la Cinématographie) and Procirep/Angoa


Download the Press Release here