Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is exciting scientists and science fiction buffs alike and those who happen to be a bit of both are thrilled. Titan is unlike any planet or moon yet discovered. In the YouTube video below, “Strange Rain on Titan: Saturn’s Moon,” theoretical physicist, Professor Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University explains the landscape and weather of Titan.
“It’s straight out of science fiction. It is an object with yellow skies and methane clouds that is truly remarkable.”
Saturn’s largest moon features vast dark blue oceans, lakes, and rivers, but these are not composed of water, but rather they are made of methane and other liquid hydrocarbons. This liquid methane reacts very similarly to water on Titan’s frigid landscape, it freezes, it melts, it evaporates, it forms yellow clouds of evaporated methane, and eventually rains down methane-based hydrocarbon precipitation, just as water does on earth.
Titan, Saturn’s most amazing moon, also has storms, seasons, and all the aspects of weather so familiar to everyone, yet the jaggedness of the landscape, the yellow color of the sky, the total undrinkability of the only liquid on the planet, and especially the cold, make it seem so very alien and inhospitable to human life.
On Saturn’s largest moon, rain would be quite different than on earth. The liquid would be far colder than earthly ice made of water. Scientists speculate that because of the difference in gravity, colder-than-ice droplets of liquid methane the size of hazelnuts would float slowly down, moistening the planet with the fluid that responds like water in this alternate world.
Titan is a very cold place with temperatures of approximately minus-300 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the New York Times. That is 184 degrees Celsius. In other words, it would too cold for life as we know it. Still, Saturn is very earth-like and its weather simulates ours, though with different chemicals instead of our H2O, and far lower temperatures that enable the methane to liquefy, rather than remain a gas.
Though Saturn’s largest moon would be difficult or impossible for human habitation, some scientists at Cornell University are speculating that it might be possible that another completely alien life form could have evolved there, according to Daily Mail. The Cornell scholars are considering the possibility that perhaps methane-based, oxygen-free beings could have lived there.
Titan has some deep canyons and craters with steep sides, some as steep as 40 degrees, and at the bottoms of these, there is that mixture of liquid methane and other hydrocarbons. Scientist Valerio Cassini of the University of Rome believes that these deep gorges could be the result of flowing liquid cutting canyons, just as water has shaped the earth’s landscape. He is quoted by Sci-Tech Today.
“It’s likely that a combination of these forces contributed to the formation of the deep canyons, but at present it’s not clear to what degree each was involved. What is clear is that any description of Titan’s geological evolution needs to be able to explain how the canyons got there.”
Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, seems to have crustal shifts as well, though scientists have not been able to work out the frequency and timetable for those. Alex Hays, co-author of the study at Cornell University, explained the strong parallel between Earth and Titan, as quoted by Sci-Tech Today.
“Earth is warm and rocky, with rivers of water, while Titan is cold and icy, with rivers of methane. And yet it’s remarkable that we find such similar features on both worlds.”
Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is probably the most scientifically interesting place discovered by space exploration so far.
[Photo by NASA/Getty Images]