The planet Saturn has 62 moons and Titan is not only it’s largest, but is so big that it is the second largest moon in our entire solar system.
Titan Moon Profile
|Discovered By:||Christiaan Huygens March 25, 1655|
|Mass:||1.35 × 10^23 kg (1.8 Moons)|
|Orbit Distance:||1,221,865 km|
|Orbit Length:||15.9 days|
|Surface Temperature:||-179 °C|
Titan is also the only moon that we know of that has a dense planet-like atmosphere that includes clouds.
In Greek mythology, the Titans were the original and older gods that ruled the universe. Their children became the mythological Greek gods that ruled on Olympus.
The moon Titan is named after the Greek gods of the past.
What Scientists think
Scientists believe that Titan is the closest to an Earth-like object that has been discovered in our solar system so far.
While Earth is closer to the sun and therefore warmer, Titan may be an example of what conditions were like in the early years of Earth’s existence.
Titan is surrounded by an orange haze and for many years, scientists didn’t know much about this moon.
It was the 2004 Cassini mission that discovered that Titan’s atmosphere is 370 mi/600 km high and that it is a lot more complex and active than previously thought.
The atmosphere is mainly made up of 95% nitrogen and 5% methane. It appears that Titan has organic molecules consisting of carbon and hydrogen and these are the same as in the Earth’s atmosphere that is believed to be critical for life.
Scientists are confused about Titan’s atmosphere. They know that sunlight breaks down the methane but they are unsure what replenishes the methane.
Some think that there may be volcanic activity that is involved in renewing the methane, but this idea hasn’t been proven.
The continued puzzle of Titan’s atmosphere led it to be part of the focus on the Cassini spacecraft flyby.
During that mission, Cassini found that Titan’s polar winds seem to be drawing the nitrogen and methane out along the magnetic field of Saturn and then into the atmosphere.
This is the same process that scientists believe happens with the magnetic field on Earth.
The surface of Titan is covered with methane and ethane lakes. While scattered all over, a majority are near Titan’s southern pole.
What is the Magic Island
One of the curious things that was discovered in 2014 is what scientists are calling the “Magic Island.”
It’s believed that there are nitrogen bubbles that formed within Titan’s oceans that are now on the surface. This has created a temporary island that eventually dissipates.
Titan has been listed as the only world other than Earth in our solar system that has surface liquids that are stable.
Scientists that have studied Titan have found that it has lakes, seas, rivers and even rain. They call it a “hydrological cycle” and is the only other planet other than Earth that has one.
Liquid methane evaporates on Titan and then forms clouds that cause methane rain as well as methane ice and cyanide gas that floats over Titan’s surface.
Facts about Titan
- Titan’s surface also has massive sand dune areas that are made of hydrocarbon. Called the “Dunes of Titan,” scientists think that they may look like Africa’s Namibian desert.
- Titan has dim sunlight and climate on any celestial body is mostly driven by changes in the quantity of light that it receives.
- Although not confirmed, information shows that there may be a liquid ocean below Titan’s surface.
- Titan has been a unique model for study because it has cloudy bodies that affect its atmosphere.
- The 2017 Cassini-Huygens space mission landed the Huygens probe on Titan for study and succeeded in getting some of the highest resolution images ever achieved for the surface of a moon.
- The data from the Huygens probe showed that Titan has mountains that are over 10,000 ft high.
- The balance of the Huygens missions allowed interesting data about the structure of Titan and the atmosphere’s organic chemistry.
- Huygens identified season changes on Titan, which was one of the focuses of the mission.
- Another focus of the Huygens probe was to verify whether Titan had any volcanic activity.
- What group is Titan named after?
the older mythological Greek gods
- What do scientists call the nitrogen bubbles that are on Titan’s surface?
- What liquid features does Titan’s surface have?
lakes, rivers, and oceans
- What is the name of the spacecraft mission that included Titan in its research?
- Titan is considered to have what feature that is only found on Earth?
- What two areas of Titan focus was the Cassini-Huygens mission?
Titan seasonal change and volcanic activity
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