Crucial observations from NASA’s Cassini mission in 2017 showed a glimpse of districts on Saturn’s largest moon that resemble the Earth’s habitat.
Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, and the Earth share a few similarities. For instance, the two are the only planets in the solar system that have stable liquid bodies on their surface. Additionally, the Titan has a dense atmosphere, and experiences rainfall like Earth. Although, the Titan’s lakes and rivers contain liquid methane and not water. “Titan is the only world outside the Earth where we see bodies of liquid on the surface,” said Rosaly Lopes who is a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and worked on the Cassini mission. “Some of us like to call Titan the Earth of the outer solar system.”
As opposed to a water-dominated Earth, researchers observed that some of Titan’s liquid bodies contain methane, or both methane and ethane. The observations from the Cassini mission shows evidence of lakes in the northern hemisphere of the Titan that majorly contain methane, while the ‘Ontario Lacus’, the largest lake in the southern hemisphere contains ethane and methane in equal parts. Regional differences also exist in the composition of Earth and Titan. Islands, gorges, and low-elevation seas occupy the eastern part of the Titan, whereas deeper lakes and oceans captured during the Cassini’s rounds are found in the higher western lands much above sea level. The topography of these small, but deep, lakes are believed to have formed as a result of methane dissolving the solid rock ice and frozen compounds.
Marco Mastrogiuseppe, Cassini radar scientist at Caltech in Pasadena, California, concludes, “Every time we make discoveries on Titan, Titan becomes more and more mysterious. But these new measurements help give an answer to a few key questions. We can actually now better understand the hydrology of Titan.”