Unleash the Titan

Saturn’s Largest Moon Has the Ingredients to Look Like Earth One Day

by Ashley Luse, age 12 

Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, was discovered in 1655 by Dutch astronomer, Christiaan Huygens. With a simple homemade telescope, he alerted the world to one of many secrets of the universe.

Like most moons of Saturn, Titan does not rotate. Saturn’s strong gravitational pull keeps Titan constantly positioned the same way toward the planet.

The moon is surrounded by a fog of orange clouds. Underneath these clouds is a dense nitrogen atmosphere. Titan gets its orange color by the action of sunlight on methane, which makes up about three percent of its atmosphere. Scientists believe there might be rivers and seas of liquid methane or ethane. Carbon-based molecules rain down on its icy surface with a mean temperature of -290 degrees Fahrenheit.

The frozen moon has been considered one of the best hopes for finding traces of life in places other than Earth. Like Earth in its early stages, Titan has a dense atmosphere. As the sun nears its end, it will expand and give off more heat and light. This could warm Titan, causing it to become more like Earth. If Titan becomes warmer in the future, the thick clouds of orange haze might clear, allowing more of the sun’s heat and light to reach its surface.

Titan has a good stock of organic, carbon-based molecules that are known to be the building blocks of life. The mixtures of these organic molecules covering its surface could produce life sooner than we think.

[Source: Secrets of the Universe]