Titan, Moon Of Saturn

All about Titan, one of Saturn's moons.

Titan is the largest moon of the planet Saturn, the sixth planet in our solar system. It is unique, not only because of its size, but also due to its atmosphere. Titan is the only moon in our solar system on which an atmosphere has actually been detected. The hazy, cloudy atmosphere on Titan is made of hydrocarbon and nitrogen and looks dirty, much like the smog we find in parts of the atmosphere on earth. From space, this atmosphere gives Titan an orange-tinted color. The atmosphere is more than twice as dense as that which surrounds Earth. The presence of this atmosphere, and of the molecules that compose it, indicate a possibility of life closer to that on earth than on any other moon in the solar system. However, the cloudy atmosphere also makes it more difficult to study the moon's surface.

Titan is not only large among the moons of Saturn. It is the second largest moon in the whole solar system, after Ganymede. It has a diameter of around 3200 miles or 5150 kilometers. Not only is it large among moons - it is larger than the planets Pluto and Mercury.

With the many other moons that have been identified as satellites of the ringed planet, Titan orbits Saturn. Titan keeps its distance as it orbits Saturn; it is approximately 745,000 miles away from the ringed planet. A full orbit takes approximately 16 days for the moon to complete. Titan does not have its own magnetic field.

Since it is so far away from the sun, Titan is very cold. Its surface temperature is approximately 289 degrees below zero Fahrenheit or -178 degrees Celsius. This chilly temperature keeps the moon's surface in a permanent deep freeze and is so cold that water vapor is not even released into the atmosphere from the moon's surface. Scientists still know little about Titan's composition although they theorize that lakes of liquid ethane or even methane may dot the surface. Recent pictures from spacecraft show that the surface is dotted with irregular dark and bright areas, but researchers have not yet determined what causes these variations, although it is possible the dark areas are liquid. The moon is probably mostly composed of ice and rock and it is likely the geology is layered. There are no visible craters of note on the surface; it is possible some of the surface is slushy or fluid in nature.

Dutch mathematician and physicist, Christiaan Huygens, first discovered Titan in 1655. He was conducting a study of Saturn's rings and was one of the first to note that Saturn's rings were made of orbiting rocks. He is also credited with observing the Orion Nebula and theorizing that light is actually waves.

The name Titan comes from Greek mythology. The mythological Titans were giants who tried to take over the heavens. While the moon is not likely to take over the heavens any time soon, it is certainly a compelling mystery for the scientists who are trying to learn about its hidden surface.

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