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.
|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.
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.
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.