School: Saddle River Day School
City: Gary Trotter
"Extraterrestrial life, as unlikely as its discovery may be, continues to be a hotly debated and studied topic of analysis for scientists today. Even popular interest in science fiction which are premised on the existence of alien life in the universe have increased in our culture as whole. Because of its relatively high possibility for containing life compared to other objects in the solar system, Titan’s lake should be the Cassini-Huygens satellite’s next target of study in order to possibly find new habitats for life other than Earth in our solar system.
Titan’s lakes are significant in that it is they are the only body of liquid in the solar system on the surface of either a moon or a planet. Even though it is not water, its liquid hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane still exist in the liquid form. The possibility of life still exists on Titan, despite its extremely low temperature, because these hydrocarbons could be a substitute for water in alternative types of potential organisms. The effects of the liquid’s movement on Titan has resulted in similar geographic structures there that have been caused by water movement on Earth, a phenomenon that is intriguing to scientists because of how unique it is in the solar system.
The atmosphere of Titan is mostly made out of nitrogen, similar to the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s thickest atmosphere in the Solar system, created by nitrogen, methane and smog. Scientists assume that tidal flexing, created by the strong winds and increased temperature had contributed to the formation of Titan’s thick atmosphere, which is uniquely thick compared to other moons in the solar system. They predict tidal flexing could be the reason for its thickness, especially because of how much methane (a fragile element) is in its atmosphere. These aspects of Titan support the hypothesis that Titan may be a moon which contains life, making it a vital target of study for the NASA Cassini project.
Finding out out more about Titan’s lakes could not only aid in our understanding of its possibility to harbor life, it could also help us arrive at a better understanding of its peculiar weather patterns as well. For example, according to Jason Hofgartner at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, glints, which are suspected to be waves caused by breezes in its atmosphere, have been observed on its lakes and are similar to ocean waves on Earth. It also speculated that the lake’s liquid methane and other hydrocarbon substances cause some form of precipitation on its surface, which shares some characteristics to Earth’s own water cycle and also helps contribute to the creation of the aforementioned geographic structures on Titan as well. With further data about the location and shapes of Titan’s lakes, scientists could better comprehend Titan’s weather behavior and its possible resemblances to Earth’s own atmosphere."