Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How it Works: Titan - Saturn's Largest Moon

Well here I am once again bringing you the finest news and views from the world of science magazines. I must admit that maintaining this blog to its standards has been quite a challenge for me. As I am now knee deep in my A level year (I am doing A2 Biology, Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Environmental Management if anyone's interested) every single day I find myself being flooded with work. Although I know that this is just the beginning of hardship. However, I am wasting your time here so, on with the show!

As a promise to myself, I try not to be biased or overexcited about any news I hear. Take for the example, the swine flu 'epidemic'. Everyone started panicking about whether or not they would receive their shots and some even started wearing hospital masks wherever they went. Before jumping to conclusions I analyzed the data and concluded that it was all an elaborate scheme made by pharmaceutical companies in order to make a giant profit for no expense whatsoever. It turned I was right although no government has admitted it to be true, since they themselves were fooled in this master plan. I find myself intrigued by what the world media will think of next in order to fuel consumption of a particular product or scare innocent watchers.

That is why I have decided to adequately describe Saturn's moon, Titan, not as the mythical planet X but as a celestial body similar in composition and appearance to Earth. I has clouds in its atmosphere that produce rain, large lakes of water at its poles, wind patterns, volcanoes and even plate tectonics. This seems like good news but in the end it does not matter. Titan is unfortunately to far away from the Sun and has a quite dense atmosphere so only 1% of sunshine makes it through. This leads to an average temperature of about -179ÂșC. Not the Caribbean climate we were looking for I'm afraid. Also, Titan's would-be rain is actually not composed of water but of methane which scorches out ridges, dunes and valleys on its surface.

Several missions have been recorded to Titan mostly fly-bys by probes and small reconnaissance spacecraft. A joint NASA/ESA mission has been proposed to launch in 2018. During this mission two different types of probes would land on Titan and analyze more thoroughly its atmosphere and land.

Despite all its flaws, Titan does show promise to one thing. A similar planet to Earth is somewhere out there. We just have to find it. It may take time, but the human race has persevered in the past and it will in the future as well.