Home > M. Stars, N. Fun > Titan–Home, Cold Home!

Titan–Home, Cold Home!

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Imagine this: a moon covered with frozen gasoline. The surface is certainly diverse: it includes volanoes that spew ammonia, mountains more than a kilometer tall, impact craters more than 440 km wide, and lakes of liquid ethane scattered around the north and south poles-one of which is bigger than Lake Superior. And did I mention the temperature? -290 degrees Farenheit.

That’s Titan, Saturn’s largest moon and the second largest moon in the solar system.

What we are talking about here is a doppleganger of earth–a moon where it rains (methane drizzle); that probably sports rainbows (visible in the infrared); and that offers sand-dunes more than 300 meters high (the sand might be composed of organic materials).

Titan is the only moon enveloped by a significant atmosphere–half again as thick as Earth’s–composed mainly of nitrogen, methane, and ethane, with traces of other hydrocarbons. It also the only terrestrial object in the solar system, other than Earth, that features a complete hydrological cycle–liquid raining onto the surface, flowing in rivers into large lakes, and then evaporating back up into the atmosphere.

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Is the doppleganger alive? Maybe. This moon looks more like Earth than any other candidate in the Solar System. Life forms could feed off acetylene and hydrogen–or exist in the hydrocarbon lakes or underneath the surface.

But then, I still think that Europa is our best bet for finding extraterrestrial life in the solar system.

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& for those who are wondering: we owe the beautiful topographical map & just about everything else we know concerning Titan to the Cassini space probe.  RT

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Map: Titan’s Surface; NASA-JPL; WikiCmns; PD w/ attribution.

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