Why is Titan Special?

Gattaca (from: Youtube)

If you are a Sci-fi fan like me, you might be able to recall Vincent hiding his identity for the trip to Saturn’s moon Titan in Gattaca.

Star Trek 2009 (from: Youtube)

In Star Trek 2009, Kirk and Spock beam abroad the Romulan ship attacking Earth, while Enterprise hid itself in Titan’s clouds.

Avengers Infinity War (from: Youtube)

Or at least you should remember the battle on Titan (which is an exoplanet based on Saturn’s real-life moon Titan) in Avengers: Infinity War

In fact, Titan has shown up more than once in the Star Trek series as well as in other famous films, novels, and comics. Why always Titan?

What makes Titan exceptional among more than 150 known moons in the Solar System?

  • Titan is the largest moon of Saturn and the second largest moon in the solar system—larger than the planet Mercury.

Titan has a radius of about 1600 miles, which only is 2.5 times smaller than the Earth. The largest moon in the Solar System, Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, is only larger by 2 percent.

  • Titan is the ONLY known moon with a substantial atmosphere in the Solar System.

According to observations from the Voyager space probes, the atmosphere of Titan is thicker and denser than the Earth’s! Its atmosphere is also the only nitrogen-rich dense atmosphere in the Solar System aside from the Earth’s. On Titan, the air is dense enough that you can walk on its surface without a spacesuit. However, you do need an oxygen mask and special suit to protect you from its temperature of -290 °F. Atmospheric methane creates a greenhouse effect, which keeps Titan’s surface from becoming even colder.

  • Other than the Earth, Titan is the ONLY object in the Solar System known to have liquids on its surface.
Near-infrared radiation from the Sun reflecting off Titan’s hydrocarbon seas (from: Wikipedia)

There are rivers, lakes, and seas of liquid methane and ethane on Titan’s surface. Although the surface of this icy world is covered by a “golden hazy atmosphere,” the Cassini-Huygens mission discovered liquid hydrocarbon lakes in Titan’s polar regions. Titan has an Earth-like liquid cycle, which includes raining, filling of the water body, and evaporation. Scientists also suspect that its volcanoes release water instead of molten rock lava. There is also speculation that Titan has a subsurface ocean of water according to the gravity measurements.

  • Titan is considered one of the most habitable place in the Solar System.

The information above reveals Titan’s potential for harboring life forms that can survive in the surface hydrocarbon liquids or the subsurface ocean. Although there’s no evidence of life on Titan so far, it is definitely worth further exploration due to its unique features.

3 thoughts on “Why is Titan Special?

  1. I love the bullet points you added between paragraphs. Great idea!

    I’m curious where you would send a probe if you had to choose one of the giant moons. Do you think Titan is the best candidate for life, or at least something interesting worth studying? The potential subsurface ocean along with the weather cycle make it very unique.

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  2. This blog was very interesting. I especially loved the videos from movies that I love. It is so interesting that a moon could have such a dense atmosphere and be so big. It was interesting to me that you said that Titan could be one of the best places for harboring life given that it is so cold, but its atmosphere and the liquids on its surface are what evidence this idea I would imagine.

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  3. I’ve seen (and love) the movies you mentioned in this post, and I’ve somehow never connected that they all directly reference or have a planet based on the real-life Saturn moon Titan. Even after we discussed it in class, I never actually connected the dots until you laid it out like this. I wonder if filmmakers use this world so often because Titan is considered fairly habitable. Considering how far away Saturn and Titan are from us here on Earth, I also wonder if humans will ever manage to actually visit it to see what’s it like in person.

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