Facts about Titan

We found 17 facts about Titan

The largest of Saturn’s satellites

Titan is the only moon in the Solar System with such a dense atmosphere. It is the second largest moon in the Solar System after Ganymede (Jupiter III), surpassing Mercury and all dwarf planets in size. It is a celestial body most distant from Earth, that a space probe has landed on. The Huygens lander has shown there are numerous lakes on its surface, although they are filled with liquid hydrocarbons instead of water.

It was discovered on March 25th, 1655 by Danish astronomer Christiaan Huygens.
Huygens and his older brother began producing telescopes around 1650, and it was thanks to one of their devices they noticed Titan. It was the sixth discovered moon in the Solar System.
Titan orbits Saturn every 15 days and 22 hours. Rotation around its axis is synchronized with the cycle period.
It travels around the planet at an average speed of 5.57 km/s, approaching it at its periapsis for a distance of 1,186,680 km and distancing at apoapsis for a distance of 1,257,060 km.
The diameter of the Titan at its equator is 5,150 km.
It is 48% larger than Luna (Earth’s moon) and 80% more massive.
Its surface is highly geologically diverse.
It is covered in lighter and darker areas: seas, lakes, bays, islands, rivers, canals, mountain ridges, valleys, fjords, and dunes.
There are three seas on its surface.
The largest–Kraken Mare–has an area of 400,000 square kilometers, Ligeia Mare has an area of 126,000 square kilometers, and Punga Mare has an area of 40,000 square kilometers. All three are located in the Northern Hemisphere.
So far, more than 80 lakes have been discovered on its surface.
The seas and lakes of Titan are filled with liquid hydrocarbons.
The atmospheric pressure at the surface is 146.7 kPa (1.5 bars), which makes it 45% higher than on Earth.
Titan’s atmosphere is made of 98.4% nitrogen, 1.4% methane, and 0.2% hydrogen, and extends up to 975 kilometers above the moon’s surface. According to Cassini's space probe research, Titan’s atmosphere rotates faster than the planet’s surface.
The average temperature on its surface is -179.2 degrees Celsius.
Due to the dense atmosphere and its distance from the Sun, only 1% of the amount of light that reaches Earth gets through to the surface of Titan. Were it not for the strong greenhouse effect caused by the presence of methane in the moon’s atmosphere, its temperature would probably be much lower.
The largest crater on Titan’s surface in Menrva.
Its diameter is 392 kilometers, and its depth is 2.8 kilometers. It is located 20.1 degrees north of the equator. It must be quite old, with no typical for impact craters elevation in its center, and traces of strong erosion are visible on its surface.
Most of the dunes are located near the equator.
They stretch for hundreds of kilometers, and their height reaches 100 meters. Unlike Earth’s, Titan’s dunes are made of organic compounds.
Several of Titan’s mountains are named for mountains from J. R. R. Tolkien literature (i.e. Moria Montes), and colles (collection of hills) are named after Tolkien’s characters (i.e. Arwen).
Rains of liquid organic compounds, mainly methane, fall to the surface of the moon from clouds consisting of methane and ethane.
Typically, cloud cover does not exceed 1% of the moon's surface, but periodically it can increase up to 8%. The mechanism of cloud formation on Titan has not yet been elucidated. One hypothesis is that the effect of increased solar radiation causes convection.
The first probe near Titan was Voyager 1.
The flight took place on November 12th, 1980. Several photos were taken from a distance of 4,000 km, but apart from the dense atmosphere, they did not reveal any surface details. As it turned out later, the photos contained rudimentary information about the area, but NASA had to wait over 20 years to process them in detail, which revealed information that was previously invisible.
On October 15th, 1997, the Cassini-Huygens probe was launched towards Saturn, thanks to which Saturn, its rings, Titan, and Enceladus were examined.
The probe reached Saturn on July 1st, 2004, and six months later, on January 14th, 2005, the Huygens lander landed on Titan's surface. Cassini, on the other hand, orbited Titan, collecting information from orbit.
The closest Cassini’s flight around Titan took place at an altitude of 880 km on June 21st, 2010.
Its aim was to check if Titan has its own magnetic field. As it turned out, it does not have a clear internal magnetic field, but it is inside Saturn's magnetosphere, which protects against harmful radiation.
It can hide life beneath its surface.
While its surface may be barren, it is likely that beneath its icy surface there may be an ocean that is conducive to life. Previous missions were not equipped with detectors designed to detect signs of life, but more missions are under preparation.
In June 2027, NASA plans to send a Dragonfly mission to Titan.
It is to reach the surface of the moon in 2036 and, among other things, analyze the organic compounds and look for evidence for the origin of life. It will be the first flying probe on the surface of Titan.
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