Titan is Saturn's largest moon. It is surrounded by a thick, golden haze, and only certain kinds of telescopes and cameras can see through the haze to the surface. Titan is of great interest to scientists because it has flowing liquids on its surface and a dense, complex atmosphere.
10 Need-To-Know Things About Titan
- If the sun were as tall as a typical front door, Earth would be the size of a nickel and Titan would be the size of a pea.
- Titan is a moon that orbits the planet Saturn. Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun at a distance of about 1.4 billion km (886 million miles) or 9.5 AU.
- One day on Titan (the time it takes for Titan to rotate or spin once) takes about 16 Earth days. The length of Titan's day is the same as the amount of time it takes Titan to orbit Saturn. Saturn makes a complete orbit around the sun (one Saturn year) in about 29 Earth years (10,759 Earth days).
- Like many other moons (including Earth's moon), Titan is locked by gravity to its planet so that the same side always faces toward Saturn.
- Titan has been called the most earthlike world in the solar system because it has lakes, seas and flowing rivers on its surface, although the liquid is methane (CH4) and ethane (C2H6) instead of water.
- Like Earth, Titan's atmosphere is mostly nitrogen (N2). It also contains small amounts of methane and other complex hydrocarbons. Titan's atmosphere is slightly denser than Earth's.
- Titan does not have rings. Its gravity helps to shape ringlets, gaps and other structures in Saturn's rings.
- Titan has been visited by two spacecraft and one surface lander. Voyager 2 made the first flyby of Titan in 1980. The Cassini spacecraft has made scores of flybys of Titan since 2004. The Huygens probe, carried to Saturn by Cassini, parachuted to the surface in 2005.
- Scientists who study living things do not think life as we know it is likely on Titan's surface. Some scientists think Titan's subsurface ocean might contain a habitable environment.
- Seas on Titan are named for mythical sea monsters, while its mountains are named for mountains found in the works of author J.R.R. Tolkien.
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