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The Kansan - Newton, KS
by Bob Everoski
Titan
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By Bob Everoski
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By Bob Everoski
May 3, 2013 4:25 p.m.

 

 

 

There are several natural satellites or moons in our solar system that might harbor life. One such moon is called Titan. It is the largest natural satellite of the ringed planet Saturn.

The moon Titan is about 3,200 miles in diameter. It is larger than our Moon and the planet Mercury. Titan is the second largest moon in our solar system.

Titan has an atmosphere denser than any other moon in our solar system. It is composed mainly of 98.4% nitrogen, 1.4% methane, and trace amounts of hydrogen, ethane, and other hydrocarbons.

In contrast, the Earth’s atmosphere consists mainly of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and trace amounts of other gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, neon, and argon.

Titan is not visible to the unaided eye, but it can be seen through almost any small telescope. It has a reddish-orange appearance. However, a telescope with a minimum magnification of 40 is needed to see the magnificent ring system of Saturn.

Currently, the planet Saturn is about 823 million miles from the Earth. Look for Saturn and its moon Titan about 15 degrees above the horizon in the southeast at about 10:00 P.M. Saturn will appear as a yellowish looking star that does not twinkle. Other moons of Saturn might also be visible.

Remember, if you hold your fist out at arm’s length, the distance between the lower and upper part of your fist measures about 10 degrees. It should also be mentioned that the nearly waning full Moon will definitely interfere with viewing of Saturn and Titan until the end of April.

The average surface temperature of Titan is about -291 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature methane can exist in any of three states be it solid, liquid, or gas. On Earth, water is the main cycle. However, on Titan, it is methane.

Methane and ethane clouds can be found in the atmosphere of Titan as well as methane/ethane rainfall. Rivers, lakes, and seas made either of methane or ethane can also be found on its surface. In addition, nearly 15% of the surface of Titan is covered by sand dunes. Other surface features include impact craters, hills, valleys, and mountains.

Astronomers think that Titan closely resembles Earth in its early history, and that life could exist on its surface. However, life forms there would be methane based as opposed to water based on the Earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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