Utah Skies: Titan, Saturn's Largest Moon

Aug 6, 2020

Saturn’s largest moon Titan is a wondrous world that is both similar and different from our Earth.

On Oct. 15, 1997 a spacecraft launched from Earth arrived at the planet Saturn. The spacecraft consisted of two parts. The first part named Cassini was an orbiter that would orbit Saturn exploring it and its many moons. Huygens, the second craft, was destined to land on this mysterious cloud-covered moon named Titan.

A camera recorded the decent of Huygen as it fell towards the surface of Titan. As it descended below the orange cloud deck a new landscape was revealed that no one had ever seen before. Mountains, rivers, desert dunes, canyons, and boulders became visible. When Huygens landed lightly on the surface of Titan it came to rest near some rocks that were probably composed of frozen ice. Because the surface of Titan is so cold at a minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit, the probe did not function very long but it managed to record surface details of the surrounding landing site.

The surface of Titan continued to be studied by the spacecraft Cassini as it orbited near Titan numerous times and built up a map of Titan’s surface features using radar from the craft. Though Earth has similar geography, Titan is much colder and methane instead of water carved its surface. No life was observed on Titan.

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