content long 13-December-2017 04:11:12

Winners Ireland

16-18 years old: The lakes of Titan

Authors: Cormac Harte, Rory McElroy, Ciaran Doherty

We believe the target which will reveal the most information is target two - the lakes of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. After researching all possible targets, we have come to the conclusion that target two can yield the most scientific information which could aid our understanding of Saturn, its moons, and life itself. Titan is Saturn’s largest moon with a surface area of 83 billion km2.  This means it is large enough to have a dense, hazy atmosphere, which is composed largely of nitrogen (98.4%), methane (1.4%) and hydrogen (0.2%). Titan is a rocky, partially icy moon. The rocks on Titan are rough and jagged. The lakes on Titan are largely made up of liquid methane and ethane, and there are possibly hundreds of them. They are theorised to contain about 300 times the liquid of Earth’s proven oil reserves. The smaller lakes are called lacūs while the larger ones are known as maria. The lakes only cover a few percent of Titan`s surface though it is theorised that there is a large ocean beneath the surface of the moon. The benefits of harnessing the lakes’ liquids are numerous.  The most important benefit is that they could be used as fuel for machines and engines. This could potentially help us explore the outer-reaches of space.  Also, underneath the moon’s surface, there could be a vast liquid ocean. This ocean could potentially harvest life in the form of micro-organisms. If this were to be correct, we would be able to confirm that there is, in fact, other life in the universe and that we are not alone. If the lakes are harnessed, a settlement could be established on this moon that could drastically help us study the planet of Saturn and its many moons. Target one is the ice plumes of Enceladus. These ice plumes show that pure water could potentially be on this moon. Although this could be a huge discovery, there is no current method of harnessing the ice plumes that shoot out of the moon . Titan has mass reserves of potentially usable oil which is even bigger discovery than Enceladus’ ice plumes. Also, Titan is a possibly habitable moon, unlike Enceladus which has a surface completely composed of solid ice.

Target three is the hexagon at Saturn`s north pole. It is one of the many mysteries that surround Saturn`s peculiar formation. This hexagon has a diameter of 13,800km which covers Saturn`s north pole, which is believed to have been formed by strong atmospheric winds, commonly known as jet streams. Although this formation is fascinating, investigating Titan`s lakes propose a much larger array of potential discoveries such as inhabiting the moon itself. In conclusion, we believe that Titan’s lakes are the target that would hold the most potential, from its methane-rich lakes to the theorised water-filled ocean beneath its surface. This moon has potential to be inhabited due to its relatively Earth-like atmospheric pressure and thus, may be our next big step towards the future of space exploration.


Last Update: 19 May 2017

For further information please contact: SciTech.editorial@esa.int

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