TITAN: methane seas on ice surface

Titan is the largest moon of Saturn, the ringed planet. This is the only moon with a thick atmosphere. The material on Titan’s surface consists of water-ice; that is, its rocks are also made of ice. Titan’ interior is not hot now, so there are no active volcanoes on it. There are still a lot of changes happening to its surface, which is mainly caused by the methane cycle. There is no liquid water on Titan because the material of ice-rock is always in a state frozen to the hardness of rock at the cold surface (-180°C). The role of ground water on Earth is performed by ethane and methane on Titan. Methane on the Earth occurs only as a gas, as for example in the flame of a gas stove. There is also methane rain falling from Titan’s clouds; when it accumulates, it forms rivers, which run into polar lakes and seas. In the region of the equator, parallel bands of dark dunes line up and bury much of the surface. Titan’s landscapes are perhaps the most similar to the Earth within the solar system, but still it is a planet that operates very differently from ours. Space probe Huygens landed on its surface in 2005. It is the farthest world from the sun on which photos of its surface have ever been taken. 

titan_en_m

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What are the long strips near the equator? They are long sand dunes, the material of which is made from flaky granules generated by compounds in the atmosphere that fall onto the surface.
What are the blue glass beads? The bottom of some river beds are covered with rounded and transparent ice ‘gravel’.
How was the square pond generated? This pond is a product of imagination; if there were intelligent beings living on it, maybe they would have built such a reservoir. However, no one lives there.
How high are the mountains? A few hundred meters high. They are more like hills, because the rocks are made of ice and no tall mountains can be developed from ice.
What are the round shapes? Impact craters.
Where is there water on Titan? Nowhere. There is liquid methane-ethane mixture in the lakes and rivers. Several lakes dried up, but sometimes they are filled with fluid. In many places parched valleys can be seen, which are likely to be fed by heavy rains that fall only very occasionally.

titan_globe

Legend

  • Body type: moon
  • Body composition: icy
  • Atmosphere: thick, orange, cold atmosphere, mostly nitrogen
  • Liquid: methane, ethane
  • Endogenic features: none
  • Exogenic features: rivers, lakes, valleys, “labyrinth terrain”, dunes
  • Cosmogenic features: few impact craters
  • Common features: dunes (equator), featureless plains (mid-latitudes), wet and dry lakes (poles)
  • Rare features: rivers, deltas, islands, rain features
  • Life limiting parameter: too cold
  • Nomenclature: Names from JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, Frank Herbert’s Dune series.
  • Highest point: Mithrim Montes in Xanadu, 3 km high. The water ice surface is eroded by rain and grains of dunes are redistributed by winds.
  • Age: variable, includes very old and very young surfaces. Lakes are actively forming and drying.Titan map: (Illustrator: Panka Pásztohy) The least understood (at present) world is Titan, where large areas are yet to be mapped and interpreted. The map shows the surface as a perspective spherical landscape, where the various forms are open to interpretation. Ice pebbles fill some of the valleys, greatly enlarged in the map. Parallel lines along the equator represent longitudinal dunes. Lakes are all real features, except for one in which one creature is bathing. Clouds (over the poles and Xanadu) were indeed observed and likely made rain on the surface.

    White hairy creatures interact with the surface. The physical parameters of the bodies are depicted in a “bookshelf,” which should look very appropriate when the map hangs on the wall of a children’s room.

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