Facts about Titan the Largest Moon of Saturn

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The largest moon of Saturn is Titan.  It has a dense atmosphere and there is evidence of an abundance of water.  Titan is one and one-half the size of Earth’s moon and is one and eight tenths times as massive.  Titan was discovered on March 25, 1655 by the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens.  It is composed of icy water and has a rocky surface. 

Nasa/Esa/Asi launched a satellite on October 15, 1997 that headed for the moons of Saturn for study.  It consisted of the Cassini orbiter designed by Nasa, named after the Italian-French astronomer Giovanni Dominico Cassini and the Huygens probe designed by Esa, named after the Dutch astronomer, mathematician, and physicist Christiaan Huygens.  On July 1, 2004 it entered the orbit of Saturn.  The Huygens probe separated from the Cassini orbiter on December 25, 2004.  It arrived at Titan on January 14, 2005.  It was the first landing in the gas giants region.  After a two and one-half hour descent to Titan, Cassini landed on Titan.  Unfortunately, due to an error in the software of one of the Cassini receivers, only 350 pictures were received. 

The mission was extended by Nasa two times and might remain active until 2017.  Named the Cassini Solstice Mission, it wil orbit Saturn at least 100 more times and flyby Titan over 60 times.  The moons Enceladus, Mimas, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, and Helene will all be visited.  The mission will end in a crash landing on Saturn, avoiding contamination of the moons of Saturn.    

Evidence of liquid hydrocarbon was found on Titan on July 21, 2006.  The liquid hydrocarbon was found in lakes never before found outside Earth.  The lakes range in size from one kilometer to one hundred kilometers.  It is evidence that there might be life in the form of microorganisms on Titan.  Jet Propulsion Laboratory found evidence of methane and ethane in Titan’s northern hemisphere on March 13, 2007. 

The large lakes of Titan are called maria, and the small lakes are called lacus.  There is evidence of hydrogen in the body of the lakes.  Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 had already shown evidence that there might be hydrocarbon seas due to evidence of a thick atmosphere, compostion, and temperature.  Even more evidence was suggested in 1995 by the Hubble Space Telescope. 

The small lakes (lacus) composed of ethane and methane are named after lakes on Earth.  Some of the names of the small lakes are Albano Lacus named after Lake Albano, Italy; Koitere Laus, named after Koitere, Finland; Sotonera Lacus, named after Lake Sotonera, Spain; and Sparrow Lacus after Lake Sparrow, Canada. 

The large lakes composed of hydrocarbon are named after mythological sea monsters. 

Two of them are named Kraken Mare after the Norse sea monster, and Ligeia Mare after one of the Greek monsters called Sirens.   


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