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Titan(moon)

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Titan(orSaturnVI)isthelargestmoonofSaturn.Itistheonlynaturalsatelliteknowntohave
adenseatmosphere,[9]andtheonlyobjectotherthanEarthwhereclearevidenceofstablebodies
ofsurfaceliquidhasbeenfound.[10]

Titan

TitanisthesixthellipsoidalmoonfromSaturn.Frequentlydescribedasaplanetlikemoon,
Titan'sdiameteris50%largerthanEarth'snaturalsatellite,theMoon,anditis80%more
massive.ItisthesecondlargestmoonintheSolarSystem,afterJupiter'smoonGanymede,and
islargerthanthesmallestplanet,Mercury,althoughonly40%asmassive.Discoveredin1655by
theDutchastronomerChristiaanHuygens,[11][12]TitanwasthefirstknownmoonofSaturn,and
thesixthknownplanetarysatellite.[13]
Titanisprimarilycomposedofwatericeandrockymaterial.MuchaswithVenusbeforethe
SpaceAge,thedenseopaqueatmospherepreventedunderstandingofTitan'ssurfaceuntilnew
informationaccumulatedwhentheCassiniHuygensmissionarrivedin2004,includingthe
discoveryofliquidhydrocarbonlakesinTitan'spolarregions.Thegeologicallyyoungsurfaceis
generallysmooth,withfewimpactcraters,althoughmountainsandseveralpossible
cryovolcanoeshavebeenfound.[14][15]
TheatmosphereofTitanislargelynitrogenminorcomponentsleadtotheformationof
methaneethanecloudsandnitrogenrichorganicsmog.Theclimateincludingwindandrain
createssurfacefeaturessimilartothoseofEarth,suchasdunes,rivers,lakes,seas(probablyof
liquidmethaneethane),anddeltas,andisdominatedbyseasonalweatherpatternsasonEarth.
Withitsliquids(bothsurfaceandsubsurface)androbustnitrogenatmosphere,Titan'smethane
cycleisanalogoustoEarth'swatercycle,althoughatamuchlowertemperature.

Contents
1 History

Titaninnaturalcolor.Thethickatmosphereis
orangeduetoadenseorganonitrogenhaze.
Discovery
Discoveredby

ChristiaanHuygens

Discoverydate March25,1655
Designations
Pronunciation

/tatn/

Alternative
names

SaturnVI

Adjectives

Titanean,Titanian[1]
Orbitalcharacteristics[2]

Periapsis

1 186 680km

Apoapsis

1 257 060km

3 Bulkcharacteristics

Semimajor
axis

1 221 870km

4 Formation

Eccentricity

0.0288

5 Atmosphere

Orbitalperiod

15.945d

2 Orbitandrotation

Averageorbital 5.57km/s(calculated)
speed

6 Climate
7 Surfacefeatures

Inclination

0.348 54(toSaturn'sequator)

Satelliteof

Saturn

7.1 Liquids
7.2 Impactcraters

Physicalcharacteristics
Meanradius

2 575.5 2.0km(0.404
Earths, [3]1.480Moons)

7.3 Cryovolcanismandmountains

Surfacearea

8.3 107km2

7.4 Darkterrain

Volume

7.16 1010km3(0.066Earths)
(3.3Moons)

Mass

(1.3452 0.0002) 1023kg

8 Observationandexploration
8.1 CassiniHuygens
8.1.1 Huygenslandingsite
8.2 Proposedorconceptualmissions
9 Prebioticconditionsandlife
9.1 Formationofcomplexmolecules
9.2 Possiblesubsurfacehabitats
9.3 Methaneandlifeatthesurface
9.4 Obstacles

(0.0225Earths)[3](1.829Moons)
Meandensity

1.8798 0.0044g/cm3[3]

Surfacegravity 1.352m/s2(0.14g)(0.85
Moons)
Escapevelocity 2.639km/s(1.11Moons)
Rotationperiod Synchronous
Axialtilt

Zero

Albedo

0.22[4]

Temperature

93.7K(179.5C)[5]

Apparent
magnitude

8.2[6]to9.0

9.5 Panspermiahypothesis
9.6 Futureconditions
10 Seealso
11 References
12 Bibliography
13 Furtherreading
14 Externallinks

Atmosphere
Surface
pressure

146.7kPa(1.41atm)

Compositionby Variable[7][8]
volume
Stratosphere:
98.4%nitrogen(N2),
1.4%methane(CH4),
0.2%hydrogen(H2)
Lowertroposphere:
95.0%N2,4.9%CH4

History
TitanwasdiscoveredonMarch25,1655bytheDutchastronomerChristiaanHuygens.Huygenswasinspiredby
Galileo'sdiscoveryofJupiter'sfourlargestmoonsin1610andhisimprovementsintelescopetechnology.
Christiaan,withthehelpofhisbrotherConstantijnHuygens,Jr.,beganbuildingtelescopesaround1650and
discoveredthefirstobservedmoonorbitingSaturnwithoneofthetelescopestheybuilt.[16]
HenameditsimplySaturniLuna(orLunaSaturni,Latinfor"Saturn'smoon"),publishinginthe1655tractDe
SaturniLunaObservatioNova(ANewObservationofSaturn'sMoon).AfterGiovanniDomenicoCassinipublished
hisdiscoveriesoffourmoremoonsofSaturnbetween1673and1686,astronomersfellintothehabitofreferringto
theseandTitanasSaturnIthroughV(withTitantheninfourthposition).OtherearlyepithetsforTitaninclude
"Saturn'sordinarysatellite".[17]TitanisofficiallynumberedSaturnVIbecauseafterthe1789discoveriesthe
numberingschemewasfrozentoavoidcausinganymoreconfusion(TitanhavingbornethenumbersIIandIVas
wellasVI).NumeroussmallmoonshavebeendiscoveredclosertoSaturnsincethen.
ThenameTitan,andthenamesofallsevensatellitesofSaturnthenknown,camefromJohnHerschel(sonof
WilliamHerschel,discovererofMimasandEnceladus)inhis1847publicationResultsofAstronomical
ObservationsMadeattheCapeofGoodHope.[18]HesuggestedthenamesofthemythologicalTitans
(AncientGreek:),brothersandsistersofCronus,theGreekSaturn.InGreekmythology,theTitanswerea
raceofpowerfuldeities,descendantsofGaiaandUranus,thatruledduringthelegendaryGoldenAge.
ChristiaanHuygens
discoveredTitanin1655.

Orbitandrotation
TitanorbitsSaturnonceevery15daysand22hours.LiketheMoonandmanyofthesatellitesofthegiant
planets,itsrotationalperiodisidenticaltoitsorbitalperiodTitanisthustidallylockedinsynchronous
rotationwithSaturn,andpermanentlyshowsonefacetotheplanet.Becauseofthis,thereisasubSaturnian
pointonitssurface,fromwhichtheplanetwouldalwaysappeartohangdirectlyoverhead.Longitudeson
Titanaremeasuredwestward,startingfromthemeridianpassingthroughthispoint.[19]Itsorbital
eccentricityis0.0288,andtheorbitalplaneisinclined0.348degreesrelativetotheSaturnianequator.[2]
ViewedfromEarth,Titanreachesanangulardistanceofabout20Saturnradii(justover1,200,000
kilometres(750,000mi))fromSaturnandsubtendsadisk0.8arcsecondsindiameter.
Thesmall,irregularlyshapedsatelliteHyperionislockedina3:4orbitalresonancewithTitan.A"slowand
smooth"evolutionoftheresonanceinwhichHyperionwouldhavemigratedfromachaoticorbitis
consideredunlikely,basedonmodels.Hyperionprobablyformedinastableorbitalisland,whereasthe
massiveTitanabsorbedorejectedbodiesthatmadecloseapproaches.[20]

Bulkcharacteristics

Titan'sorbit(highlightedinred)
amongtheotherlargeinnermoonsof
Saturn.Themoonsoutsideitsorbit
are(fromtheoutsidetotheinside)
IapetusandHyperionthoseinsideare
Rhea,Dione,Tethys,Enceladus,and
Mimas.

Titanis5,151kilometres(3,201mi)indiameter,[3]comparedto4,879kilometres(3,032mi)fortheplanet
Mercury,3,474kilometres(2,159mi)fortheMoon,and12,742kilometres(7,918mi)forEarth.Beforethe
arrivalofVoyager1in1980,TitanwasthoughttobeslightlylargerthanGanymede(diameter5,262
kilometres(3,270mi))andthusthelargestmoonintheSolarSystemthiswasanoverestimationcausedby
Titan'sdense,opaqueatmosphere,whichextendsmanykilometresaboveitssurfaceandincreasesitsapparentdiameter.[21]Titan'sdiameterand
mass(andthusitsdensity)aresimilartothoseoftheJovianmoonsGanymedeandCallisto.[22]Basedonitsbulkdensityof1.88g/cm3,Titan'sbulk
compositionishalfwatericeandhalfrockymaterial.ThoughsimilarincompositiontoDioneandEnceladus,itisdenserduetogravitational
compression.
Titanislikelydifferentiatedintoseverallayerswitha3,400kilometre(2,100mi)rockycentersurroundedbyseverallayerscomposedofdifferent
crystalformsofice.[23]Itsinteriormaystillbehotandtheremaybealiquidlayerconsistingofa"magma"composedofwaterandammonia
betweentheiceIhcrustanddeepericelayersmadeofhighpressureformsofice.Thepresenceofammoniaallowswatertoremainliquidevenata
temperatureaslowas176K(97C)(foreutecticmixturewithwater).[24]EvidenceforsuchanoceanwasuncoveredbytheCassiniprobeinthe
formofnaturalextremelylowfrequencyradiowavesinTitan'satmosphere.Titan'ssurfaceisthoughttobeapoorreflectorofextremelylow
frequencyradiowaves,sotheymayinsteadbereflectingofftheliquidiceboundaryofasubsurfaceocean.[25]Surfacefeatureswereobservedby
theCassinispacecrafttosystematicallyshiftbyupto30kilometres(19mi)betweenOctober2005andMay2007,whichsuggeststhatthecrustis

decoupledfromtheinterior,andprovidesadditionalevidenceforaninteriorliquidlayer.[26]
Furthersupportingevidenceforaliquidlayeranddecouplediceshellcomesfromthewaythe
gravityfieldvariesasTitanorbitsSaturn.[27]ComparisonofthegravityfieldwiththeRADAR
basedtopographyobservations[28]alsosuggeststhattheiceshellmaybesubstantially
rigid.[29][30]

Formation

Sizecomparison:Titan(lowerleft)withtheMoon
andEarth(topandright)

AmodelofTitan'sinternalstructure

ThemoonsofJupiterandSaturnarethoughttohaveformedthroughcoaccretion,asimilar
processtothatbelievedtohaveformedtheplanetsintheSolarSystem.Astheyounggasgiants
formed,theyweresurroundedbydiscsofmaterialthatgraduallycoalescedintomoons.
However,whereasJupiterpossessesfourlargesatellitesinhighlyregular,planetlikeorbits,
TitanoverwhelminglydominatesSaturn'ssystemandpossessesahighorbitaleccentricitynot
immediatelyexplainedbycoaccretionalone.AproposedmodelfortheformationofTitanis
thatSaturn'ssystembeganwithagroupofmoonssimilartoJupiter'sGalileansatellites,butthat
theyweredisruptedbyaseriesofgiantimpacts,whichwouldgoontoformTitan.Saturn's
midsizedmoons,suchasIapetusandRhea,wereformedfromthedebrisofthesecollisions.
SuchaviolentbeginningwouldalsoexplainTitan'sorbitaleccentricity.[31]
In2014,analysisofTitan'satmosphericnitrogensuggestedthatithaspossiblybeensourced
frommaterialsimilartothatfoundintheOortcloudandnotfromsourcespresentduringco
accretionofmaterialsaroundSaturn.[32]

Atmosphere
Titanistheonlyknownmoonwithasignificantatmosphere,anditsatmosphereistheonlynitrogenrichdenseatmosphereintheSolarSystem
asidefromEarth's.Observationsofitmadein2004byCassinisuggestthatTitanisa"superrotator",likeVenus,withanatmospherethatrotates
muchfasterthanitssurface.[33]ObservationsfromtheVoyagerspaceprobeshaveshownthatTitan'satmosphereisdenserthanEarth's,witha
surfacepressureabout1.45atm.Itisalsoabout1.19timesasmassiveasEarth'soverall,[34]orabout7.3timesmoremassiveonapersurfacearea
basis.ItsupportsopaquehazelayersthatblockmostvisiblelightfromtheSunandothersourcesandrendersTitan'ssurfacefeaturesobscure.[35]
Titan'slowergravitymeansthatitsatmosphereisfarmoreextendedthanEarth's.[36]TheatmosphereofTitanisopaqueatmanywavelengthsanda
completereflectancespectrumofthesurfaceisimpossibletoacquirefromorbit.[37]ItwasnotuntilthearrivaloftheCassiniHuygensspacecraftin
2004thatthefirstdirectimagesofTitan'ssurfacewereobtained.[38]

Titan'sSouthPoleVortexa
swirlingHCNgascloud
(November29,2012).

Titan'satmosphericcompositioninthestratosphereis98.4%nitrogenwith
theremaining1.6%composedmostlyofmethane(1.4%)andhydrogen
(0.10.2%).[8]Therearetraceamountsofotherhydrocarbons,suchas
ethane,diacetylene,methylacetylene,acetyleneandpropane,andofother
gases,suchascyanoacetylene,hydrogencyanide,carbondioxide,carbon
monoxide,cyanogen,argonandhelium.[7]Thehydrocarbonsarethoughtto
forminTitan'supperatmosphereinreactionsresultingfromthebreakupof
methanebytheSun'sultravioletlight,producingathickorangesmog.[39]
Titanspends95%ofitstimewithinSaturn'smagnetosphere,whichmay
helpshielditfromthesolarwind.[40]

EnergyfromtheSunshouldhaveconvertedalltracesofmethaneinTitan's
Truecolorimageoflayersof
atmosphereintomorecomplexhydrocarbonswithin50millionyearsashorttimecomparedtotheageofthe
hazeinTitan'satmosphere
[41]
SolarSystem.ThissuggeststhatmethanemustbereplenishedbyareservoironorwithinTitanitself. The
ultimateoriginofthemethaneinitsatmospheremaybeitsinterior,releasedviaeruptionsfromcryovolcanoes.[42][43][44]
OnApril3,2013,NASAreportedthatcomplexorganicchemicalscouldariseonTitan,basedon
studiessimulatingtheatmosphereofTitan.[45]
OnJune6,2013,scientistsattheIAACSICreportedthedetectionofpolycyclicaromatichydrocarbons
intheupperatmosphereofTitan.[46]
OnSeptember30,2013,propenewasdetectedintheatmosphereofTitanbyNASA'sCassini
spacecraft,usingitscompositeinfraredspectrometer(CIRS).[47]Thisisthefirsttimepropenehasbeen
TraceorganicgasesinTitan'satmosphere
foundonanymoonorplanetotherthanEarthandisthefirstchemicalfoundbytheCIRS.The
HNC(left)andHC3N(right).
detectionofpropenefillsamysteriousgapinobservationsthatdatebacktoNASA'sVoyager1
spacecraft'sfirstcloseflybyofTitanin1980,duringwhichitwasdiscoveredthatmanyofthegases
thatmakeupTitan'shazybrowncoloredhazewerehydrocarbons,theoreticallyformedviatherecombinationofradicalscreatedbytheSun's
ultravioletphotolysisofmethane.[39]
OnOctober24,2014,methanewasfoundinpolarcloudsonTitan.[48][49]

Polarclouds,madeofmethane,onTitan(left)comparedwithpolarcloudsonEarth(right),whichare
madeofwaterorwaterice.

Climate
Titan'ssurfacetemperatureisabout94K(179.2C).Atthistemperature,watericehasanextremelylow
vaporpressure,sothelittlewatervaporpresentappearslimitedtothestratosphere.[50]Titanreceivesabout
1%asmuchsunlightasEarth.[51]
AtmosphericmethanecreatesagreenhouseeffectonTitan'ssurface,withoutwhichTitanwouldbefar
colder.[52]Conversely,hazeinTitan'satmospherecontributestoanantigreenhouseeffectbyreflecting
sunlightbackintospace,cancellingaportionofthegreenhouseeffectandmakingitssurfacesignificantly
colderthanitsupperatmosphere.[53]

AtmosphericpolarvortexoverTitan's
southpole

Titan'sclouds,probablycomposedofmethane,ethaneorothersimpleorganics,arescatteredandvariable,
punctuatingtheoverallhaze.[21]ThefindingsoftheHuygensprobeindicatethatTitan'satmosphere
periodicallyrainsliquidmethaneandotherorganiccompoundsontoitssurface.[55]

Cloudstypicallycover1%ofTitan'sdisk,thoughoutbursteventshavebeenobservedinwhichthecloud
coverrapidlyexpandstoasmuchas8%.Onehypothesisassertsthatthesoutherncloudsareformedwhenheightenedlevelsofsunlightduringthe
southernsummergenerateupliftintheatmosphere,resultinginconvection.Thisexplanationiscomplicatedbythefactthatcloudformationhas
beenobservednotonlyafterthesouthernsummersolsticebutalsoduringmidspring.Increasedmethanehumidityatthesouthpolepossibly

contributestotherapidincreasesincloudsize.[56]ItwassummerinTitan'ssouthernhemisphereuntil2010,
whenSaturn'sorbit,whichgovernsTitan'smotion,movedTitan'snorthernhemisphereintothesunlight.[57]
Whentheseasonsswitch,itisexpectedthatethanewillbegintocondenseoverthesouthpole.[58]

Surfacefeatures

GlobalmapofTitan

ThesurfaceofTitanhasbeendescribedas"complex,fluid
processed,[and]geologicallyyoung".[59]Titanhasbeenaround
sincetheSolarSystem'sformation,butitssurfaceismuchyounger,
between100millionand1billionyearsold.Geologicalprocesses
Methaneclouds(animatedJuly
mayhavereshapedTitan'ssurface.[60]Titan'satmosphereistwice
asthickasEarth's,makingitdifficultforastronomicalinstruments
2014). [54]
toimageitssurfaceinthevisiblelightspectrum.[61]TheCassini
spacecraftisusinginfraredinstruments,radaraltimetryandsyntheticapertureradar(SAR)imagingto
mapportionsofTitanduringitscloseflybys.Thefirstimagesrevealedadiversegeology,withboth
roughandsmoothareas.Therearefeaturesthatmaybevolcanicinorigin,disgorgingwatermixed
withammoniaontothesurface.However,thereisalsoevidencethatTitan'siceshellmaybe
substantiallyrigid,[29][30]whichwouldsuggestlittlegeologicactivity.[62]

Therearealsostreakyfeatures,someofthemhundredsof
kilometersinlength,thatappeartobecausedbywindblown
particles.[63][64]Examinationhasalsoshownthesurfacetobe
relativelysmooththefewobjectsthatseemtobeimpactcraters
Northpole
Southpole
appearedtohavebeenfilledin,perhapsbyraininghydrocarbons
orvolcanoes.Radaraltimetrysuggestsheightvariationislow,
Titan(2014)
typicallynomorethan150meters.Occasionalelevationchanges
of500metershavebeendiscoveredandTitanhasmountainsthat
sometimesreachseveralhundredmeterstomorethan1kilometerinheight.[65]
Senkyoregion
Titan'ssurfaceismarkedbybroadregionsofbrightanddarkterrain.TheseincludeXanadu,alarge,reflective
equatorialareaaboutthesizeofAustralia.ItwasfirstidentifiedininfraredimagesfromtheHubbleSpace
Telescopein1994,andlaterviewedbytheCassinispacecraft.Theconvolutedregionisfilledwithhillsandcutbyvalleysandchasms.[66]Itis
crisscrossedinplacesbydarklineamentssinuoustopographicalfeaturesresemblingridgesorcrevices.Thesemayrepresenttectonicactivity,

whichwouldindicatethatXanaduisgeologicallyyoung.Alternatively,thelineamentsmaybeliquidformedchannels,suggestingoldterrainthat
hasbeencutthroughbystreamsystems.[67]TherearedarkareasofsimilarsizeelsewhereonTitan,observedfromthegroundandbyCassiniit
hadbeenspeculatedthatthesearemethaneorethaneseas,butCassiniobservationsseemtoindicateotherwise(seebelow).

MosaicofTitanfromCassini's
February2005flyby.Thelarge
darkregionisShangriLa.

Titaninfalsecolorshowingsurface
detailsandatmospherewith
TitanGlobe,amosaicofinfrared
Xanaduinthebrightregionatthe imageswithnomenclature
centerright.

Titanasseenintheinfrared

Liquids
ThepossibilityofhydrocarbonseasonTitanwasfirstsuggestedbasedonVoyager1and2datathatshowedTitantohaveathickatmosphereof
approximatelythecorrecttemperatureandcompositiontosupportthem,butdirectevidencewasnotobtaineduntil1995whendatafromHubble
andotherobservationssuggestedtheexistenceofliquidmethaneonTitan,eitherindisconnectedpocketsoronthescaleofsatellitewideoceans,
similartowateronEarth.[68]
TheCassinimissionconfirmedtheformerhypothesis,althoughnotimmediately.WhentheprobearrivedintheSaturniansystemin2004,itwas
hopedthathydrocarbonlakesoroceanswouldbedetectedfromthesunlightreflectedofftheirsurface,butnospecularreflectionswereinitially
observed.[69]NearTitan'ssouthpole,anenigmaticdarkfeaturenamedOntarioLacuswasidentified[70](andlaterconfirmedtobealake).[71]A
possibleshorelinewasalsoidentifiednearthepoleviaradarimagery.[72]FollowingaflybyonJuly22,2006,inwhichtheCassinispacecraft's
radarimagedthenorthernlatitudes(thatweretheninwinter),anumberoflarge,smooth(andthusdarktoradar)patcheswereseendottingthe
surfacenearthepole.[73]Basedontheobservations,scientistsannounced"definitiveevidenceoflakesfilledwithmethaneonSaturn'smoonTitan"

inJanuary2007.[10][74]TheCassiniHuygensteamconcludedthattheimagedfeaturesarealmostcertainly
thelongsoughthydrocarbonlakes,thefirststablebodiesofsurfaceliquidfoundoutsideofEarth.Some
appeartohavechannelsassociatedwithliquidandlieintopographicaldepressions.[10]Theliquiderosion
featuresappeartobeaveryrecentoccurrence:channelsinsomeregionshavecreatedsurprisinglylittle
erosion,suggestingerosiononTitanisextremelyslow,orsomeotherrecentphenomenamayhavewiped
outolderriverbedsandlandforms.[60]Overall,theCassiniradarobservationshaveshownthatlakescover
onlyafewpercentofthesurface,makingTitanmuchdrierthanEarth.[75]Althoughmostofthelakesare
concentratednearthepoles(wheretherelativelackofsunlightpreventsevaporation),anumberoflong
standinghydrocarbonlakesintheequatorialdesertregionshavealsobeendiscovered,includingonenear
theHuygenslandingsiteintheShangriLaregion,whichisabouthalfthesizeofUtah'sGreatSaltLake.
Theequatoriallakesareprobably"oases",i.e.thelikelysupplierisundergroundaquifers.[76]
InJune2008,theVisualandInfraredMappingSpectrometeronCassiniconfirmedthepresenceofliquid
ethanebeyonddoubtinOntarioLacus.[77]OnDecember21,2008,CassinipasseddirectlyoverOntario
Lacusandobservedspecularreflectioninradar.Thestrengthofthereflectionsaturatedtheprobe'sreceiver,
indicatingthatthelakeleveldidnotvarybymorethan3mm(implyingeitherthatsurfacewindswere
minimal,orthelake'shydrocarbonfluidisviscous).[78][79]
Specularreflectionsareindicativeofasmooth,mirrorlikesurface,sotheobservationcorroboratedthe
inferenceofthepresenceofalargeliquidbodydrawnfromradarimaging.Theobservationwasmadesoon
afterthenorthpolarregionemergedfrom15yearsofwinterdarkness.

FalsecolorCassiniradarmosaicof
Titan'snorthpolarregion.Blue
coloringindicateslowradar
reflectivity,causedbyhydrocarbon
seas,lakesandtributarynetworks
filledwithliquidethane,methaneand
dissolvedN2. [8]Abouthalfofthe
largebodyatlowerleft,Kraken
Mare,isshown.LigeiaMareisat
lowerright.

OnJuly8,2009,Cassini'sVIMSobservedaspecularreflectionindicativeofasmooth,mirrorlikesurface,
offwhattodayiscalledJingpoLacus,alakeinthenorthpolarregionshortlyaftertheareaemergedfrom15
yearsofwinterdarkness.[80][81]
EarlyradarmeasurementsmadeinJuly2009andJanuary2010indicatedthatOntarioLacuswasextremely
shallow,withanaveragedepthof0.43m,andamaximumdepthof3to7m(9.8to23.0ft).[82]Incontrast,
thenorthernhemisphere'sLigeiaMarewasinitiallymappedtodepthsexceeding8m,themaximum
discernablebytheradarinstrumentandtheanalysistechniquesofthetime.[82]Laterscienceanalysis,
releasedin2014,morefullymappedthedepthsofTitan'sthreemethaneseasandshoweddepthsofmore
than200meters(660ft).LigeiaMareaveragesfrom20to40m(66to131ft)indepth,whileotherpartsof
Ligeiadidnotregisteranyradarreflectionatall,indicatingadepthofmorethan200m(660ft).Whileonly
thesecondlargestofTitan'smethaneseas,Ligeia"containsenoughliquidmethanetofillthreeLake
Michigans."[83]

MosaicofthreeHuygensimagesof
channelsystemonTitan

Duringaflybyon26September2012,
Cassini'sradardetectedinTitan'snorthern
polarregionwhatislikelyariverwitha
lengthofmorethan400kilometers.Ithas
beencomparedwiththemuchlargerNile
riveronEarth.ThisfeatureendsinLigeia
Mare.[71]

EvolvingfeatureinLigeiaMare

DuringsixflybysofTitanfrom2006to
2011,Cassinigatheredradiometrictracking
andopticalnavigationdatafromwhich
investigatorscouldroughlyinferTitan's
Nearinfraredradiationfromthe
changingshape.ThedensityofTitanis
SunreflectingoffTitan's
consistentwithabodythatisabout60%
hydrocarbonseas
rockand40%water.Theteam'sanalyses
suggestthatTitan'ssurfacecanriseandfall
byupto10metresduringeachorbit.Thatdegreeofwarpingsuggeststhat
Titan'sinteriorisrelativelydeformable,andthatthemostlikelymodelofTitan
isoneinwhichanicyshelldozensofkilometresthickfloatsatopaglobal
ocean.[84]Theteam'sfindings,togetherwiththeresultsofpreviousstudies,hint
thatTitan'soceanmaylienomorethan100kilometres(62mi)belowits
surface.[84][85]OnJuly2,2014,NASAreportedtheoceaninsideTitanmaybe
assaltyastheDeadSea.[86][87]OnSeptember3,2014,NASAreportedstudies
suggestingmethanerainfallonTitanmayinteractwithalayeroficymaterials
underground,calledan"alkanofer,"toproduceethaneandpropanethatmay
eventuallyfeedintoriversandlakes.[88]

PhotoofinfraredspecularreflectionoffJingpoLacus,alakeinthenorth
polarregion

PerspectiveradarviewofBolsenaLacus(lowerright)andothernorthern
hemispherehydrocarbonlakes

ContrastingimagesofthenumberoflakesinTitan'snorthernhemisphere TwoimagesofTitan'ssouthernhemisphereacquiredoneyearapart,
(left)andsouthernhemisphere(right)
showingchangesinsouthpolarlakes

Impactcraters
Radar,SARandimagingdatafromCassinihaverevealedfewimpactcratersonTitan'ssurface.[60]Theseimpactsappeartoberelativelyyoung,
comparedtoTitan'sage.[60]Thefewimpactcratersdiscoveredincludea440kilometres(270mi)widetworingimpactbasinnamedMenrvaseen
byCassini'sISSasabrightdarkconcentricpattern.[90]Asmaller,60kilometres(37mi)wide,flatflooredcraternamedSinlap[91]anda30
kilometres(19mi)craterwithacentralpeakanddarkfloornamedKsahavealsobeenobserved.[92]RadarandCassiniimaginghavealsorevealed
anumberof"crateriforms",circularfeaturesonthesurfaceofTitanthatmaybeimpactrelated,butlackcertainfeaturesthatwouldmake
identificationcertain.Forexample,a90kilometres(56mi)wideringofbright,roughmaterialknownasGuabonitohasbeenobservedby
Cassini.[93]Thisfeatureisthoughttobeanimpactcraterfilledinbydark,windblownsediment.Severalothersimilarfeatureshavebeenobserved
inthedarkShangrilaandAaruregions.RadarobservedseveralcircularfeaturesthatmaybecratersinthebrightregionXanaduduringCassini's
April30,2006flybyofTitan.[94]

Radarimageofa139km
diameter[89]impactcrateronTitan's
surface,showingasmoothfloor,
ruggedrim,andpossiblyacentral
peak.

ManyofTitan'scratersorprobablecratersdisplayevidenceof
extensiveerosion,andallshowsomeindicationof
modification.[89]Mostlargecratershavebreachedorincomplete
rims,despitethefactthatsomecratersonTitanhaverelatively
moremassiverimsthanthoseanywhereelseintheSolar
System.However,thereislittleevidenceofformationof
palimpseststhroughviscoelasticcrustalrelaxation,unlikeon
LigeiaMareSARandclearerdespeckled
otherlargeicymoons.[89]Mostcraterslackcentralpeaksand
views.
havesmoothfloors,possiblyduetoimpactgenerationorlater
eruptionofcryovolcaniclava.Althoughinfillfromvarious
geologicalprocessesisonereasonforTitan'srelativedeficiencyofcraters,atmosphericshieldingalsoplays
aroleitisestimatedthatTitan'satmospherereducesthenumberofcratersonitssurfacebyafactorof
two.[95]

ThelimitedhighresolutionradarcoverageofTitanobtainedthrough2007(22%)suggestedtheexistenceofanumberofnonuniformitiesinits
craterdistribution.Xanaduhas29timesmorecratersthanelsewhere.Theleadinghemispherehasa30%higherdensitythanthetrailing
hemisphere.Therearelowercraterdensitiesinareasofequatorialdunesandinthenorthpolarregion(wherehydrocarbonlakesandseasaremost
common).[89]
PreCassinimodelsofimpacttrajectoriesandanglessuggestthatwheretheimpactorstrikesthewatericecrust,asmallamountofejectaremainsas
liquidwaterwithinthecrater.Itmaypersistasliquidforcenturiesorlonger,sufficientfor"thesynthesisofsimpleprecursormoleculestothe
originoflife".[96]

Cryovolcanismandmountains
ScientistshavelongspeculatedthatconditionsonTitanresemblethoseofearlyEarth,thoughatamuchlowertemperature.Thedetectionofargon
40intheatmospherein2004indicatedthatvolcanoeshadspawnedplumesof"lava"composedofwaterandammonia.[97]Globalmapsofthelake
distributiononTitan'ssurfacerevealedthatthereisnotenoughsurfacemethanetoaccountforitscontinuedpresenceinitsatmosphere,andthus
thatasignificantportionmustbeaddedthroughvolcanicprocesses.[98]
Still,thereisapaucityofsurfacefeaturesthatcanbeunambiguouslyinterpretedascryovolcanoes.[99]Oneofthefirstofsuchfeaturesrevealedby
Cassiniradarobservationsin2004,calledGanesaMacula,resemblesthegeographicfeaturescalled"pancakedomes"foundonVenus,andwas
thusinitiallythoughttobecryovolcanicinorigin,althoughtheAmericanGeophysicalUnionrefutedthishypothesisinDecember2008.The
featurewasfoundtobenotadomeatall,butappearedtoresultfromaccidentalcombinationoflightanddarkpatches.[100][101]In2004Cassinialso
detectedanunusuallybrightfeature(calledTortolaFacula),whichwasinterpretedasacryovolcanicdome.[102]Nosimilarfeatureshavebeen

identifiedasof2010.[103]InDecember2008,astronomersannouncedthediscoveryoftwotransientbut
unusuallylonglived"brightspots"inTitan'satmosphere,whichappeartoopersistenttobeexplainedbymere
weatherpatterns,suggestingtheyweretheresultofextendedcryovolcanicepisodes.[24]
InMarch2009,structuresresemblinglavaflowswereannouncedinaregionofTitancalledHoteiArcus,
whichappearstofluctuateinbrightnessoverseveralmonths.Thoughmanyphenomenaweresuggestedto
explainthisfluctuation,thelavaflowswerefoundtorise200metres(660ft)aboveTitan'ssurface,consistent
withithavingbeeneruptedfrombeneaththesurface.[104]
Amountainrangemeasuring150kilometres(93mi)long,30kilometres(19mi)wideand1.5kilometres
(0.93mi)highwasalsodiscoveredbyCassiniin2006.Thisrangeliesinthesouthernhemisphereandis
thoughttobecomposedoficymaterialandcoveredinmethanesnow.Themovementoftectonicplates,
NearinfraredimageofTortola
perhapsinfluencedbyanearbyimpactbasin,couldhaveopenedagapthroughwhichthemountain'smaterial
Facula,thoughttobeapossible
cryovolcano
upwelled.[105]PriortoCassini,scientistsassumedthatmostofthetopographyonTitanwouldbeimpact
structures,yetthesefindingsrevealthatsimilartoEarth,themountainswereformedthroughgeological
[106]
processes.
InDecember2010,theCassinimissionteamannouncedthemostcompellingpossiblecryovolcanoyetfound.NamedSotraPatera,it
isoneinachainofatleastthreemountains,eachbetween1000and1500minheight,severalofwhicharetoppedbylargecraters.Theground
aroundtheirbasesappearstobeoverlaidbyfrozenlavaflows.[107]
IfvolcanismonTitanreallyexists,thehypothesisisthatitisdrivenbyenergyreleasedfromthedecayof
radioactiveelementswithinthemantle,asitisonEarth.[24]MagmaonEarthismadeofliquidrock,whichis
lessdensethanthesolidrockycrustthroughwhichiterupts.Becauseiceislessdensethanwater,Titan's
waterymagmawouldbedenserthanitssolidicycrust.ThismeansthatcryovolcanismonTitanwouldrequire
alargeamountofadditionalenergytooperate,possiblyviatidalflexingfromnearbySaturn.[24]Thelow
pressureice,overlayingaliquidlayerofammoniumsulfate,ascendsbuoyantly,andtheunstablesystemcan
producedramaticplumeevents.Titanisresurfacedthroughtheprocessbygrainsizediceandammonium
sulfateash,whichhelpsproduceawindshapedlandscapeandsanddunefeatures.[108]

FalsecolorVIMSimageofthe
possiblecryovolcanoSotraPatera,
combinedwitha3Dmapbasedon
radardata,showing1000meter
highpeaksanda1500meterdeep
crater.

In2008JeffreyMoore(planetarygeologistofAmesResearchCenter)proposedanalternateviewofTitan's
geology.NotingthatnovolcanicfeatureshadbeenunambiguouslyidentifiedonTitansofar,heassertedthat
Titanisageologicallydeadworld,whosesurfaceisshapedonlybyimpactcratering,fluvialandeolianerosion,
masswastingandotherexogenicprocesses.Accordingtothishypothesis,methaneisnotemittedbyvolcanoes
butslowlydiffusesoutofTitan'scoldandstiffinterior.GanesaMaculamaybeanerodedimpactcraterwitha
darkduneinthecenter.Themountainousridgesobservedinsomeregionscanbeexplainedasheavilydegradedscarpsoflargemultiringimpact
structuresorasaresultoftheglobalcontractionduetotheslowcoolingoftheinterior.Eveninthiscase,Titanmaystillhaveaninternalocean
madeoftheeutecticwaterammoniamixturewithatemperatureof176K(97C),whichislowenoughtobeexplainedbythedecayof

radioactiveelementsinthecore.ThebrightXanaduterrainmaybeadegradedheavilycrateredterrainsimilartothatobservedonthesurfaceof
Callisto.Indeed,wereitnotforitslackofanatmosphere,CallistocouldserveasamodelforTitan'sgeologyinthisscenario.JeffreyMooreeven
calledTitanCallistowithweather.[99][109]

Darkterrain
InthefirstimagesofTitan'ssurfacetakenbyEarthbasedtelescopesintheearly2000s,largeregionsofdarkterrain
wererevealedstraddlingTitan'sequator.[110]PriortothearrivalofCassini,theseregionswerethoughttobeseasof
liquidhydrocarbons.[111]RadarimagescapturedbytheCassinispacecrafthaveinsteadrevealedsomeofthese
regionstobeextensiveplainscoveredinlongitudinaldunes,upto330ft(100m)high[112]aboutakilometerwide,
andtenstohundredsofkilometerslong.[113]Dunesofthistypearealwaysalignedwithaveragewinddirection.In
thecaseofTitan,steadyzonal(eastward)windscombinewithvariabletidalwinds(approximately0.5metersper
second).[114]ThetidalwindsaretheresultoftidalforcesfromSaturnonTitan'satmosphere,whichare400times
strongerthanthetidalforcesoftheMoononEarthandtendtodrivewindtowardtheequator.Thiswindpattern,it
wastheorized,causesgranularmaterialonthesurfacetograduallybuildupinlongparalleldunesalignedwestto
east.Thedunesbreakuparoundmountains,wherethewinddirectionshifts.

SanddunesintheNamib
DesertonEarth(top),
comparedwithdunesin
BeletonTitan

Thelongitudinal(orlinear)duneswereinitiallypresumedtobeformedbymoderatelyvariablewindsthateither
followonemeandirectionoralternatebetweentwodifferentdirections.However,subsequentobservationsindicate
thatthedunespointtotheeastalthoughclimatesimulationsindicateTitan'ssurfacewindsblowtowardthewest.At
lessthan1meterpersecond,theyarenotpowerfulenoughtoliftandtransportsurfacematerial.Recentcomputer
simulationsindicatethatthedunesmayinsteadbetheresultofrarestormwindsthathappenonlyeveryfifteen
yearswhenTitanisinequinox.[115]Thesestormsproducestrongdowndrafts,flowingeastwardatupto10meters
persecondwhentheyreachthesurface.

The"sand"onTitanislikelynotmadeupofsmallgrainsofsilicateslikethesandonEarth,[116]butrathermighthaveformedwhenliquidmethane
rainedanderodedthewatericebedrock,possiblyintheformofflashfloods.Alternatively,thesandcouldalsohavecomefromorganicsolids
producedbyphotochemicalreactionsinTitan'satmosphere.[112][114][117]Studiesofdunes'compositioninMay2008revealedthattheypossessed
lesswaterthantherestofTitan,andarethusmostlikelyderivedfromorganicsootlikehydrocarbonpolymersclumpingtogetherafterrainingonto
thesurface.[118]CalculationsindicatethesandonTitanhasadensityofonethirdthatofterrestrialsand.[119]

Observationandexploration

Titanisnevervisibletothenakedeye,butcanbeobservedthroughsmalltelescopesorstrongbinoculars.Amateur
observationisdifficultbecauseoftheproximityofTitantoSaturn'sbrilliantglobeandringsystemanocculting
bar,coveringpartoftheeyepieceandusedtoblockthebrightplanet,greatlyimprovesviewing.[120]Titanhasa
maximumapparentmagnitudeof+8.2,[6]andmeanoppositionmagnitude8.4.[121]Thiscomparesto+4.6[121]forthe
similarlysizedGanymede,intheJoviansystem.
ObservationsofTitanpriortothespaceagewerelimited.In1907SpanishastronomerJosepComasiSolobserved
limbdarkeningofTitan,thefirstevidencethatthebodyhasanatmosphere.In1944GerardP.Kuiperuseda
spectroscopictechniquetodetectanatmosphereofmethane.[122]
ThefirstprobetovisittheSaturniansystemwasPioneer11in1979,which
revealedthatTitanwasprobablytoocoldtosupportlife.[123]Ittookimages
ofTitan,includingTitanandSaturntogetherinmidtolate1979.[124]The
qualitywassoonsurpassedbythetwoVoyagers.

Voyager1viewofhazeon
Titan'slimb(1980)

TitanwasexaminedbybothVoyager1and2in1980and1981,respectively.Voyager1'strajectorywas
designedtoprovideanoptimizedTitanflyby,duringwhichthespacecraftwasabletodeterminethedensity,
composition,andtemperatureoftheatmosphere,andobtainaprecisemeasurementofTitan'smass.[125]
Atmospherichazepreventeddirectimagingofthesurface,thoughin2004intensivedigitalprocessingof
Cassini'sTitanflybyradiosignal
imagestakenthroughVoyager1'sorangefilterdidrevealhintsofthelightanddarkfeaturesnowknownas
studies(artist'sconcept)
XanaduandShangrila,[126]whichhadbeenobservedintheinfraredbytheHubbleSpaceTelescope.
Voyager2,whichwouldhavebeendivertedtoperformtheTitanflybyifVoyager1hadbeenunableto,did
notpassnearTitanandcontinuedontoUranusandNeptune.[125]:94

CassiniHuygens
EvenwiththedataprovidedbytheVoyagers,Titanremainedabodyofmysteryaplanetlikesatelliteshroudedinanatmospheremakingdetailed
observationdifficult.ThemysterythathadsurroundedTitansincethe17thcenturyobservationsofChristiaanHuygensandGiovanniCassiniwas
revealedbyaspacecraftnamedintheirhonor.
TheCassiniHuygensspacecraftreachedSaturnonJuly1,2004,andbegantheprocessofmappingTitan'ssurfacebyradar.Ajointprojectofthe
EuropeanSpaceAgency(ESA)andNASA,CassiniHuygenshasprovedaverysuccessfulmission.TheCassiniprobeflewbyTitanonOctober
26,2004,andtookthehighestresolutionimageseverofTitan'ssurface,atonly1,200kilometres(750mi),discerningpatchesoflightanddarkthat
wouldbeinvisibletothehumaneye.Huygenslanded[127]onTitanonJanuary14,2005,discoveringthatmanyofitssurfacefeaturesseemtohave
beenformedbyfluidsatsomepointinthepast.[128]TitanisthemostdistantbodyfromEarthtohaveaspaceprobelandonitssurface.[129]OnJuly

22,2006,Cassinimadeitsfirsttargeted,closeflybyat950kilometres(590mi)fromTitan
theclosestflybywasat880kilometres(550mi)onJune21,2010.[130]Liquidhasbeenfound
inabundanceonthesurfaceinthenorthpolarregion,intheformofmanylakesandseas
discoveredbyCassini.[73]
Huygenslandingsite
TheHuygensprobelandedjustoffthe
Cassiniimageof
CassiniimageofTitan,
easternmosttipofabrightregionnow
Titaninfrontofthe behindEpimetheusandthe
calledAdiri.Theprobephotographedpale
ringsofSaturn
rings
hillswithdark"rivers"runningdowntoa
darkplain.Currentunderstandingisthat
thehills(alsoreferredtoashighlands)arecomposedmainlyofwaterice.Darkorganic
compounds,createdintheupperatmospherebytheultravioletradiationoftheSun,mayrain
fromTitan'satmosphere.Theyarewasheddownthehillswiththemethanerainandare
depositedontheplainsovergeologicaltimescales.[131]

Huygensinsituimage
Sameimagewithcontrast
fromTitan'ssurfacethe enhanced
onlyimagefromthe
surfaceofamoonora
planetfartherawaythan
Mars

Afterlanding,Huygensphotographedadarkplaincoveredinsmallrocksandpebbles,which
arecomposedofwaterice.[131]Thetworocksjustbelowthemiddleoftheimageontheright
aresmallerthantheymayappear:thelefthandoneis15centimetersacross,andtheoneinthe
centeris4centimetersacross,atadistanceofabout85centimetersfromHuygens.Thereis
evidenceoferosionatthebaseoftherocks,indicatingpossiblefluvialactivity.Thesurfaceis
darkerthanoriginallyexpected,consistingofamixtureofwaterandhydrocarbonice.The
"soil"visibleintheimagesisinterpretedtobeprecipitationfromthehydrocarbonhazeabove.
InMarch2007,NASA,ESA,andCOSPARdecidedtonametheHuygenslandingsitethe
HubertCurienMemorialStationinmemoryoftheformerpresidentoftheESA.[132]

Proposedorconceptualmissions

Therehavebeenseveralconceptualmissionsproposedinrecentyearsforreturningarobotic
spaceprobetoTitan.InitialconceptualworkhasbeencompletedforsuchmissionsbyNASA,theESAandJPL.Atpresent,noneofthese
proposalshavebecomefundedmissions.

TheTitanSaturnSystemMission(TSSM)wasajointNASA/ESAproposalforexplorationofSaturn'smoons.[133]
ItenvisionsahotairballoonfloatinginTitan'satmosphereforsixmonths.ItwascompetingagainsttheEuropa
JupiterSystemMission(EJSM)proposalforfunding.InFebruary2009itwasannouncedthatESA/NASAhad
giventheEJSMmissionpriorityaheadoftheTSSM.[134]
TherewasalsoanotionalconceptforaTitanMareExplorer(TiME),whichwouldbealowcostlanderthatwould
splashdowninalakeinTitan'snorthernhemisphereandfloatonthesurfaceofthelakeforthreetosix
months.[135][136][137]
AnothermissiontoTitanproposedinearly2012byJasonBarnes,ascientistattheUniversityofIdaho,istheAerial
VehicleforInsituandAirborneTitanReconnaissance(AVIATR):anunmannedplane(ordrone)thatwouldfly
throughTitan'satmosphereandtakehighdefinitionimagesofthesurfaceofTitan.NASAdidnotapprovethe
requested$715million,andthefutureoftheprojectisuncertain.[138][139][140]
Anotherlakelanderprojectwasproposedinlate2012bytheSpanishbasedprivateengineeringfirmSENERand
theCentrodeAstrobiologainMadrid.TheconceptprobeiscalledTitanLakeInsituSamplingPropelledExplorer
(TALISE).[141][142]ThemajordifferencecomparedtotheTiMEprobewouldbethatTALISEisenvisionedwithits
ownpropulsionsystemandwouldthereforenotbelimitedtosimplydriftingonthelakewhenitsplashesdown.

Theballoonproposedforthe
TitanSaturnSystemMission
(artisticrendition)

ADiscoveryProgramcontestantforitsmission#13isJourneytoEnceladusandTitan(JET),anastrobiologySaturnorbiterthatwouldassessthe
habitabilitypotentialofEnceladusandTitan.[143][144][145]
In2015,NASA'sInnovativeAdvancedConcepts(NIAC)awardedaPhaseIIgranttoaproposal[146]inordertomaturetheconceptofasubmarine
toexploretheseasofTitan.[147]

Prebioticconditionsandlife
Titanisthoughttobeaprebioticenvironmentrichincomplexorganicchemistry[45]withapossiblesubsurfaceliquidoceanservingasabiotic
environment.[148][149][150]
AlthoughtheCassiniHuygensmissionwasnotequippedtoprovideevidenceforbiosignaturesorcomplexorganiccompounds,itshowedan
environmentonTitanthatissimilar,insomeways,toonestheorizedfortheprimordialEarth.[151]Scientistssurmisethattheatmosphereofearly
EarthwassimilarincompositiontothecurrentatmosphereonTitan,withtheimportantexceptionofalackofwatervaporonTitan.[152]

Formationofcomplexmolecules

TheMillerUreyexperimentandseveralfollowingexperimentshaveshownthatwithanatmospheresimilartothatofTitanandtheadditionofUV
radiation,complexmoleculesandpolymersubstancesliketholinscanbegenerated.Thereactionstartswithdissociationofnitrogenandmethane,
forminghydrogencyanideandacetylene.Furtherreactionshavebeenstudiedextensively.[153]
InOctober2010,SarahHorstoftheUniversityofArizonareportedfindingthefivenucleotidebasesbuildingblocksofDNAandRNAamong
themanycompoundsproducedwhenenergywasappliedtoacombinationofgaseslikethoseinTitan'satmosphere.Horstalsofoundaminoacids,
thebuildingblocksofprotein.Shesaiditwasthefirsttimenucleotidebasesandaminoacidshadbeenfoundinsuchanexperimentwithoutliquid
waterbeingpresent.[154]
OnApril3,2013,NASAreportedthatcomplexorganicchemicalscouldariseonTitanbasedonstudiessimulatingtheatmosphereofTitan.[45]

Possiblesubsurfacehabitats
LaboratorysimulationshaveledtothesuggestionthatenoughorganicmaterialexistsonTitantostartachemicalevolutionanalogoustowhatis
thoughttohavestartedlifeonEarth.Althoughtheanalogyassumesthepresenceofliquidwaterforlongerperiodsthaniscurrentlyobservable,
severaltheoriessuggestthatliquidwaterfromanimpactcouldbepreservedunderafrozenisolationlayer.[155]Ithasalsobeentheorizedthat
liquidammoniaoceanscouldexistdeepbelowthesurface.[148][156]Anothermodelsuggestsanammoniawatersolutionasmuchas200kilometres
(120mi)deepbeneathawatericecrustwithconditionsthat,althoughextremebyterrestrialstandards,aresuchthatlifecouldindeedsurvive.[149]
Heattransferbetweentheinteriorandupperlayerswouldbecriticalinsustaininganysubsurfaceoceaniclife.[148]Detectionofmicrobiallifeon
Titanwoulddependonitsbiogeniceffects.Thattheatmosphericmethaneandnitrogenmightbeofbiologicaloriginhasbeenexamined,for
example.[149]

Methaneandlifeatthesurface
IthasbeensuggestedthatlifecouldexistinthelakesofliquidmethaneonTitan,justasorganismsonEarthliveinwater.[157]Suchorganisms
wouldinhaleH2inplaceofO2,metabolizeitwithacetyleneinsteadofglucose,andexhalemethaneinsteadofcarbondioxide.[150][157]
AlthoughalllivingthingsonEarth(includingmethanogens)useliquidwaterasasolvent,itisspeculatedthatlifeonTitanmightinsteadusea
liquidhydrocarbon,suchasmethaneorethane.[158]Waterisastrongersolventthanmethane.[159]However,waterisalsomorechemicallyreactive,
andcanbreakdownlargeorganicmoleculesthroughhydrolysis.[158]Alifeformwhosesolventwasahydrocarbonwouldnotfacetheriskofits
biomoleculesbeingdestroyedinthisway.[158]
In2005,astrobiologistChrisMcKayarguedthatifmethanogeniclifedidexistonthesurfaceofTitan,itwouldlikelyhaveameasurableeffecton
themixingratiointheTitantroposphere:levelsofhydrogenandacetylenewouldbemeasurablylowerthanotherwiseexpected.[157]

In2010,DarrellStrobel,fromJohnsHopkinsUniversity,identifiedagreaterabundanceofmolecularhydrogenintheupperatmosphericlayersof
Titancomparedtothelowerlayers,arguingforadownwardflowatarateofroughly1025moleculespersecondanddisappearanceofhydrogen
nearTitan'ssurfaceasStrobelnoted,hisfindingswereinlinewiththeeffectsMcKayhadpredictedifmethanogeniclifeformswere
present.[157][159][160]Thesameyear,anotherstudyshowedlowlevelsofacetyleneonTitan'ssurface,whichwereinterpretedbyMcKayas
consistentwiththehypothesisoforganismsconsuminghydrocarbons.[159]Althoughrestatingthebiologicalhypothesis,hecautionedthatother
explanationsforthehydrogenandacetylenefindingsaremorelikely:thepossibilitiesofyetunidentifiedphysicalorchemicalprocesses(e.g.a
surfacecatalystacceptinghydrocarbonsorhydrogen),orflawsinthecurrentmodelsofmaterialflow.[150]Compositiondataandtransportmodels
needtobesubstantiated,etc.Evenso,despitesayingthatanonbiologicalcatalyticexplanationwouldbelessstartlingthanabiologicalone,
McKaynotedthatthediscoveryofacatalysteffectiveat95K(180C)wouldstillbesignificant.[150]
AsNASAnotesinitsnewsarticleontheJune2010findings:"Todate,methanebasedlifeformsareonlyhypothetical.Scientistshavenotyet
detectedthisformoflifeanywhere."[159]AstheNASAstatementalsosays:"somescientistsbelievethesechemicalsignaturesbolstertheargument
foraprimitive,exoticformoflifeorprecursortolifeonTitan'ssurface."[159]
InFebruary2015,ahypotheticalcellmembranecapableoffunctioninginliquidmethaneinTitanconditionswasmodeled.Composedofsmall
moleculescontainingcarbon,hydrogen,andnitrogen,itwouldhavethesamestabilityandflexibilityascellmembranesonEarth,whichare
composedofphospholipids,compoundsofcarbon,hydrogen,oxygen,andphosphorus.Thishypotheticalcellmembranewastermedan
"azotosome",acombinationof"azote",Frenchfornitrogen,and"liposome".[161][162]

Obstacles
Despitethesebiologicalpossibilities,thereareformidableobstaclestolifeonTitan,andanyanalogytoEarthisinexact.Atavastdistancefromthe
Sun,Titanisfrigid,anditsatmospherelacksCO2.AtTitan'ssurface,waterexistsonlyinsolidform.Becauseofthesedifficulties,scientistssuchas
JonathanLuninehaveviewedTitanlessasalikelyhabitatforlife,thanasanexperimentforexaminingtheoriesontheconditionsthatprevailed
priortotheappearanceoflifeonEarth.[163]Althoughlifeitselfmaynotexist,theprebioticconditionsonTitanandtheassociatedorganic
chemistryremainofgreatinterestinunderstandingtheearlyhistoryoftheterrestrialbiosphere.[151]UsingTitanasaprebioticexperimentinvolves
notonlyobservationthroughspacecraft,butlaboratoryexperiments,andchemicalandphotochemicalmodelingonEarth.[153]

Panspermiahypothesis
ItishypothesizedthatlargeasteroidandcometaryimpactsonEarth'ssurfacemayhavecausedfragmentsofmicrobeladenrocktoescapeEarth's
gravity,suggestingthepossibilityoftranspermia.CalculationsindicatethatanumberofthesewouldencountermanyofthebodiesintheSolar
System,includingTitan.[164][165]Ontheotherhand,JonathanLuninehasarguedthatanylivingthingsinTitan'scryogenichydrocarbonlakes
wouldneedtobesodifferentchemicallyfromEarthlifethatitwouldnotbepossibleforonetobetheancestoroftheother.[166]

Futureconditions
ConditionsonTitancouldbecomefarmorehabitableinthefarfuture.Fivebillionyearsfromnow,astheSunbecomesaredgiant,itssurface
temperaturecouldriseenoughforTitantosupportliquidwateronitssurfacemakingithabitable.[167]AstheSun'sultravioletoutputdecreases,the
hazeinTitan'supperatmospherewillbedepleted,lesseningtheantigreenhouseeffectonthesurfaceandenablingthegreenhousecreatedby
atmosphericmethanetoplayafargreaterrole.Theseconditionstogethercouldcreateahabitableenvironment,andcouldpersistforseveral
hundredmillionyears.ThiswassufficienttimeforsimplelifetoevolveonEarth,althoughthepresenceofammoniaonTitanwouldcause
chemicalreactionstoproceedmoreslowly.[168]

Seealso
ColonizationofTitan
LakesofTitan
LifeonTitan
Listofnaturalsatellites
Titaninfiction
Saturn'smoonsinfiction

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Furtherreading
Lorenz,RalphMitton,Jacqueline(2002).LiftingTitan'sVeil:ExploringtheGiantMoonofSaturn.CambridgeUniversityPress.ISBN0
521793483.

Externallinks
MediarelatedtoTitan(moon)atWikimediaCommons
CassiniHuygensMissionToSaturn&Titan(http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/).MultimediaFeatureTitanVirtualTour
(http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/features/feature20070129.cfm)
TitanProfile(http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Sat_Titan)atNASA'sSolarSystemExplorationsite
(http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/)
VideoofHuygensdescent(http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/CassiniHuygens/SEMKVQOFGLE_0.html)fromtheESA
CassiniImagingCentralLaboratoryforOperations(CICLOPS)siteTitanimagesearch(http://ciclops.org/search.php?
x=19&y=3&search=Titan)
EuropeanSpaceAgency.(2005).ESACassiniHuygens(http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/CassiniHuygens/index.html).RetrievedMarch
28,2005.
ThePlanetarySociety(2005).TPS:Saturn'smoonTitan

(http://web.archive.org/web/20110605100801/http://www.planetary.org/explore/topics/saturn/titan.html).RetrievedMarch28,2005.
UniversityofArizonaLunarandPlanetaryLab(2005).LunarandPlanetaryLabTheDescentImagerSpectralRadiometeroftheCassini
HuygensMissiontoTitan(http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~kholso/).RetrievedMarch28,2005.
TheAlienNoise(http://esamultimedia.esa.int/images/huygens_alien_winds_descent.mp3).Thisrecordingisalaboratoryreconstructionof
thesoundsheardbyHuygens'microphones.
MovieofTitan'srotation(http://sos.noaa.gov/videos/Titan.mov)fromtheNationalOceanicandAtmosphericAdministrationsite
AstronomyCast:Titan(http://www.astronomycast.com/astronomy/planets/oursolarsystem/ep201titan/?
utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+astronomycast+(Astronomy+Cast))FraserCainandPamelaGay,
2010.
Titannomenclature(http://planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov/Page/TITAN/target)andTitanmapwithfeaturenames
(http://planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov/images/Titan_comp.pdf)fromtheUSGSplanetarynomenclaturepage
(http://planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov/)
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