Among the planets in our solar system, only Earth has the right elements that are suitable for human life.
Only Earth has oxygen that made it possible for us for… in the words of that Beegees’ popular disco anthem… “staying alive”. The planet Earth is also full of geological wonders that are much older than human civilization. We can just imagine how the Earth looked like back when dinosaurs ruled the land, and our hairy ancestors wandered the vast, earthen ground.
But several millions of years later, here we are, living in a time where everything is, well, convenient. At the same time, a lot of discoveries have happened over the years… and interesting ones at that. For one thing, can you imagine flying away, or at least riding a rocket, away from Earth to live in outer space?
Nope, we are not talking about our moon or even the planet Mars here. We’re talking about Saturn’s humongous moon, Titan.
Learn more about this humongous moon, so sit back, enjoy an intergalactic ride, and explore this ringed planet’s titanic moon. Who knows, our descendants would be living on another planet… or in this case, in a moon, light years away from Earth?
Saturn's largest moon
For starters, our solar system has at least 150 moons orbiting around the planets in the solar system. This includes our moon and Saturn’s moon, Titan. But apparently, only four of these hundreds of moons are discovered to have some kind of atmosphere. And you guessed it, one of them is Titan.
Titan is the second-largest moon in the solar system, next to Jupiter’s moon, Ganymede (GAH-nee-meed). Titan has a total radius of around 1,600 miles or at least 2,500 kilometers.
Titan is also about 759,000 miles away from its mother planet, Saturn. So to encircle the entirety of Saturn, Titan needs to do so by about 15 days. Meanwhile, it takes almost 30 earth years to complete its rotation around the sun.
On January 14, 2005, the European Space Agency’s robotic vehicle Huygens (hai-gens) landed on Titan’s surface. It revealed its distinct yellow haze and intricate layers of its atmosphere. Huygen’s landing on Titan’s surface also revealed that the moon has rain clouds and a weather cycle similar to Earth. Its surface also contains liquid, except that it’s not H2O but rather, frozen methane and ethane.
Titan is also said to have a thick atmosphere. Its surface and atmosphere are believed to be safe for humans. But there’s technically no oxygen there, so you still need a respirator to be able to breathe there. You might also be bouncing around once you step on this moon's surface.
You also won’t like how cold Titan is. The moon and its mother planet Saturn are more than 880 million miles away from the sun. So if you want to go to Titan, you might have to wear some bulky suit anyway because it can reach about -290 degrees Fahrenheit – way, way, colder than Antarctica.
Will Titan be our next home?
Which leaves us to the question of whether there are potential life forms in this moon? For one, it was found that Titan’s surface layers are mainly composed of a mix of icy and salty liquids, and sands. Researchers at the Washington State University and Southwestern Research Institute in Texas also believe certain elements are both present in Earth and Titan. Although, the overall conditions can be way harsher, even torturous, in Titan.
Fast forward to 2016, a team of scientists found something rather interesting in Titan’s atmosphere. A molecule called cyclopropeneldine or C3H2, which is not found elsewhere. This mysterious molecule was discovered using more than 60 radio antennas that worked in sync to pick up signals from outer space.
These antennas, which are all pointed into a target direction outside Earth, used interferometry. This kind of technology-enabled scientists to capture high-definition images, and hence, the eventual discovery of the C3H2 molecule.
It is said that this molecule was first found throughout the Milky Way’s gas and dust. The C3H2 molecule is also believed to be a vital element that could enable the formation of life in the moon, Titan.
Due to this breakthrough, and even NASA was intrigued by this amazing discovery, the space agency plans on further studying Titan. A mission is also planned for launch in 2027. Which then we would have to wait nine years, 2036 to be exact, before the spacecraft, Dragonfly, arrives on the moon’s surface.
We would only have to wait several years before we learn more about this moon called Titan, and whether it would possibly be mankind’s next new home.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Giselle R