content long 22-October-2017 14:02:48

Winners Poland

16-18 years old: The lakes of Titan

Authors: Paulina Prusik, Kornelia Kieliszczyk

We are students of the science class at the High School No. 3 in Zielona Góra. In our work we have undertaken to realize the theme of the lakes on Titan.
Saturn, sixth in the order from the Sun and the second largest planet in our Solar System, has 62 moons with confirmed orbits. The largest of them is Titan, which as the only moon in the Solar System has a dense atmosphere. It is larger than the planet Mercury and its mass is more than 90% of the whole mass of objects which are orbiting Saturn.

Titan is one of the most fascinating bodies of the Solar System. The existance of its atmosphere has been known for some time now, but further analyzes have been made. 'Voyager' probes suggested that there could be ""lakes"" on the surface, because the presence of a large number of simple hydrocarbons in its dense atmosphere has been confirmed back then. The 'Cassini-Huygens' mission was being investigated by scientists, suggesting that the moons surface is soluble in a process similar to the landmark on Earth.

The lakes on Titan are different than those, which we have on Earth. They aren't filled with water, but mainly liquid methane and ethane, due to the temperature at the surface of the moon which is maintained at around -180 degrees Celsius. Some of them dry up and fill up during the seasonal cycle, which lasts for 30 years on Saturn and Titan. These are circular crests with steep edges, which are located on a flat ground. There were also many empty hollows on Titan's surface.
Two forms of depression have been identified near the moon's poles, but hydrocarbon reservoirs in the northern hemisphere are much larger than those in the southern hemisphere. It is suspected that this asymmetry is related to the ellipticity of Saturn's orbit and is subject to change over a period of tens of thousands of years.

Seasonal variations in the surface of lakes have been observed, probably attributable to methane rain. Lacus has been found on the Ontario coast, as well as the first known Delta river on Titan.

Titan surface radar maps, which have been made using the Cassini probe, have shown that all lakes have an extremely smooth surface. Its fluctuations do not exceed three millimeters.

Titan is definitely the most interesting natural satellite of Saturn. It is fascinating that it is an object that could become in the future a place for colonization due to the large deposits of hydrocarbons. Confirmation of this thesis may be the fact that Titan contains the most important elements needed to sustain human life. The chemical processes, which are taking place in its atmosphere, are extremely interesting - that is the presence of methane, which on Earth is produced, among other things, by living organisms.

We are still asking a lot of questions and we are hoping that someday we will find answers for at least some of those.


Last Update: 19 May 2017

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

Related Articles

See Also