Titan – A Moon Where It Rains Methane Into Seas and Soils of Hydrocarbons

Above: Ringed Saturn has 33 moons reported as of August, 2004. Below: Titan is Saturn's biggest moon and second largest moon in the Solar System (after Jupiter's Ganymede). It is larger than the planets, Mercury and Pluto. Titan has a thick atmosphere (mostly nitrogen with some methane) and an atmospheric pressure of 1.6 bars (60 percent greater than the Earth's). This atmosphere with its heavy clouds obscures the moon's surface. It may rain liquid methane. The surface temperature is about -178°C = -289°F. Images courtesy NASA/JPL.
Left: Ringed Saturn has 33 moons reported as of August, 2004. Right: Titan is Saturn's biggest moon and second largest moon in the Solar System (after Jupiter's Ganymede). It is larger than the planets, Mercury and Pluto. Titan has a thick atmosphere (mostly nitrogen with some methane) and an atmospheric pressure of 1.6 bars (60 percent greater than the Earth's). This atmosphere with its heavy clouds obscures the moon's surface. It may rain liquid methane. The surface temperature is about -178°C = -289°F. Images courtesy NASA/JPL.
Earth-looking "river" system that is now assumed to drain methane from methane rains into methane seas on Saturn's huge, mysterious moon, Titan. Photograph courtesy European Space Agency (ESA).
Earth-looking "river" system that is now assumed to drain methane from methane rains into methane seas on Saturn's huge, mysterious moon, Titan. Photograph courtesy European Space Agency (ESA).

January 21, 2005  Tucson, Arizona - On January 14, 2005, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Huygens probe finally landed on the surface of Saturn's mysterious and cloud-covered moon, Titan. ESA engineers said Huygens is "the furthest human-made object that has touched down on an alien world, the only moon in the solar system with a thick atmosphere." Titan is Saturn's largest moon of at least 33 moons counted so far and is larger than the planets, Mercury and Pluto. As the Huygens probe fell by parachute through the strange moon's atmosphere at speeds ranging from 150 meters per second down to 5 meters per second, earth scientists were surprised that the probe kept losing orientation lock on the sun. Later it was decided that the lock problem and whooshing sounds from the probe's microphone were caused by winds on the moon that buffeted Huygens as it descended. That means Titan even has weather.

 

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