Tag Archives: Titan

New lakes on Titan

Titan, the largest moon of the planet Saturn, is a pretty wet place. But it's not wet with water. Titan is so cold that the moon even has lakes of liquid methane and even rains down methane. Observations by the Cassini spacecraft in 2004 and 2005 saw a lake of liquid methane form where there was none before. And given the presence of clouds, not made out of water but out of methane, it's reasonable to conclude that the lake was created by a downpour of liquid methane rain.

Changes in Titan's Lakes
Changes in Titan's Lakes

I must be really easy to impress, since the thought of rain on another world is kind of exciting, especially since it's not the kind of rain we're used to on our own planet. And there's enough rain on Titan to create an entire lake within a year. Perhaps in the far future when humans have colonized Titan, we might see vacationing people diving into the cold methane lakes ...

Liquid lakes on Titan

Radar image of liquid lakes on Titan

Scientists have confirmed that liquid lakes exist on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, using the spectrometer on board the Cassini spacecraft. It's not liquid water, though. It's liquid ethane, a hydrocarbon that probably rains down from the cold skies of Titan. While radar images of the surface of Titan strongly suggested that there were liquid lakes, this is the first time direct observational evidence was gathered.

With all the hydrocarbons on Titan, along with all the liquid ethane sloshing around like water, it would be truly extraordinary if there were carbon-based life forms which use liquid ethane as an analogue of liquid water used in Earth-based life forms. It's unlikely, but even if there are no life forms, Titan could turn out to be a great source of organic material for manned space exploration given its low gravity and rich deposits of hydrocarbons. And it would be really interesting to try bioengineering such life forms that could thrive on Titan.