(ORDO NEWS) — Titan is Saturn ‘s largest moon , 50% larger and 80% more massive than our Moon, making it the second largest natural satellite in the entire solar system after Jupiter’s moon Ganymede.
With a radius of 2,575 kilometers, Titan is also slightly larger than Mercury, although its mass is only about 40% of the planet closest to the Sun. Below are 10 more interesting facts about Titan:
Titanium discovered by Christian Huygens
Titan was discovered on March 25, 1655 by Christian Huygens using a telescope that he built with his brother Constantine Huygens the Younger.
Titan’s atmosphere is denser than Earth
Titan is the only satellite in the solar system that has a dense atmosphere. In fact, at 1.6 bar, it is more than 50% denser than Earth’s atmosphere . The main component of Titan’s atmosphere is nitrogen, with impurities of hydrocarbons such as ethane, hydrogen cyanide and carbon dioxide. Titan’s atmosphere extends about 600 kilometers from the satellite’s surface, while Earth’s atmosphere is only 480 kilometers.
During the NASA / ESA / ISA space mission “Cassini-Huygens”, planned fly-overs of Titan were made, which showed that the height of the satellite’s surface rises and falls by as much as 10 meters in one revolution around Saturn. These results suggest that a liquid subsurface ocean may be lurking beneath Titan’s relatively thin crust.
Titan has hydrocarbon lakes
Titan is the only body in the solar system, besides the Earth, on the surface of which there is liquid. The image below shows a system of lakes and canals that are filled with liquid hydrocarbons (liquid methane and ethane) that precipitate from Titan’s atmosphere.
This process has much in common with the terrestrial hydrological cycle, but it is not known how long the “hydrocarbon rain” episodes last. Although there are suspicions that each such episode delivers several tons of precipitation to the surface.
Titan may have ice volcanoes
On the surface of Saturn’s moon, given our limited knowledge of this world, ice volcanoes have not yet been discovered, but planetary scientists believe that they could explain the high methane content in Titan’s atmosphere, since there is not enough liquid methane on the surface to provide a fixed level of atmospheric methane.
Although two possible ice volcanoes were identified in 2008 that appear to be spewing water and ammonia (the source of atmospheric methane), these phenomena have not yet been confirmed as ice volcanoes.
Titan has no high mountains
Several mountains have been discovered on Titan, but none of them are high enough, which at first glance seems strange, given the fact that the satellite is tectonically active.
One possible explanation for the lack of high mountains is that Titan’s crust is very soft, and this prevents the formation of high folded mountains like the Himalayas on Earth. However, the highest peak of the Mithrim mountain system is 3337 meters high.
The mountains on Titan are named after the mountains of Middle-earth
All mountains and hills on Titan are named after the mountains and peaks of Middle-earth, a fictional world created by JRR Tolkien (1892–1973), whose story is told in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and other works from that universe. For example, on Titan, you can see the mountains of Angmar, Erebor and Moria.
There could be life on Titan
Experiments have shown that when Titan’s atmosphere interacts with ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, polymers such as tholins and other complex organic molecules can appear. In fact, working with the “gas cocktail”, which is a laboratory copy of Titan’s atmosphere, scientists recorded the appearance of the building blocks of DNA and RNA, as well as some proteins and amino acids.
It is worth noting that the chemical and environmental conditions in Titan’s cold hydrocarbon lakes are so different from terrestrial conditions that even if life is present there, it is radically different from life on Earth.
Titan’s dunes are composed of “organic soot”
Although the vast dune fields on Titan strongly resemble the dune fields on Earth, the material these dunes are made of is not silicate sand.
Available data indicate that Titan’s dunes contain less water than the rest of the moon’s surface. This supports the theory that photochemical reactions in Titan’s atmosphere continually generate a kind of organic “snow” that falls to the surface to form dunes.
There are few impact craters on Titan
Only a few relatively large impact craters have been identified on Titan, suggesting that the surface is undergoing a continuous process of “recycling”.
In fact, studies have shown that Titan’s surface is between 100 million and 1 billion years old, although the moon itself is roughly the same age as the solar system.
Although the geologic processes that “erase” the large impact craters on Titan are still poorly understood, the dense atmosphere is believed to protect the surface from the impact of small to medium-sized space rocks.
Contact us: [email protected]