Titan: Saturn's Moon (colorized)
DetailsPermalink to Details
- Added to the Catalog
- Available for
- Space: Moons
DescriptionPermalink to Description
Long ago Titan was thought to be the largest moon in the solar system. New observations have revealed that Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s moons is even larger. Part of the reason for the mix-up is the thick, dense atmosphere that surrounds Titan, obstructing surface views. Titan, like Ganymede, is larger than both Mercury and Pluto. Until recently, a clear view of the surface was not available. In late 2004 the Cassini Saturn orbiter began to study Titan, and in January of 2005, the Huygens probe actually landed on the surface and began transmitting photographs of the surface. Numerous dark areas can be seen near the North Pole are in fact seas and lakes of liquid hydrocarbons. Methane for example is 'natural gas' on the Earth, yet is liquid at Titan's temperatures. It would even be possible to sail on a boat on the lakes with a good space suit.
The atmosphere that encircles the moon is 50% greater than that around Earth. Composed of mainly nitrogen, similar to the Earth’s atmosphere, the atmosphere of Titan also has 6% argon and some methane along with many other organic compounds. This combination of gases, combined with sunlight, has created thick smog, similar to that seen over large cities. There are also clouds of ethane and methane obstructing the view of the surface. From the Huygens probe there is still much to discover, but some initial results show "lakes" and "rivers" that are currently dried up and are mostly crater-free surfaces. At least one of the lakes has been verified to have liquid ethane at the present time. In 2009 the Cassini orbiter captured sunlight reflecting off surface, confirming the presence of liquid on Titan in the area covered with many large, lake-shaped basins. While at any given time it is usually not raining on the surface, there is some evidence of precipitation and erosion on the surface. There are also cloud formations seen in various regions that may be raining from time to time.
There are three datasets available for Titan. This dataset is in color, with colors and some of the missing details filled in by a space artist. There is one available in black and white, as well as a black and white map with RADAR swaths from Cassini overlaid. The RADAR swaths show some of the seas, lakes and rivers of liquid hydrocarbons near the North Pole.
Next Generation Science StandardsPermalink to Next Generation Science Standards
Cross-cutting ConceptsPermalink to Cross-cutting Concepts
C2 Cause and Effect. Students routinely identify and test causal relationships and use these relationships to explain change. They understand events that occur together with regularity might or might not signify a cause and effect relationship
C3 Scale Proportion and Quantity. Students recognize natural objects and observable phenomena exist from the very small to the immensely large. They use standard units to measure and describe physical quantities such as weight, time, temperature, and volume.
C5 Energy and Matter. Students learn matter is made of particles and energy can be transferred in various ways and between objects. Students observe the conservation of matter by tracking matter flows and cycles before and after processes and recognizing the total weight of substances does not change.
C2 Cause and Effect. Students classify relationships as causal or correlational, and recognize that correlation does not necessarily imply causation. They use cause and effect relationships to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems. They also understand that phenomena may have more than one cause, and some cause and effect relationships in systems can only be described using probability.
C3 Scale Proportion and Quantity. Students observe time, space, and energy phenomena at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small. They understand phenomena observed at one scale may not be observable at another scale, and the function of natural and designed systems may change with scale. They use proportional relationships (e.g., speed as the ratio of distance traveled to time taken) to gather information about the magnitude of properties and processes. They represent scientific relationships through the use of algebraic expressions and equations
C5 Energy and Matter. Students learn matter is conserved because atoms are conserved in physical and chemical processes. They also learn within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter. Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion). The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.
C2 Cause and Effect. Students understand that empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and to make claims about specific causes and effects. They suggest cause and effect relationships to explain and predict behaviors in complex natural and designed systems. They also propose causal relationships by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system. They recognize changes in systems may have various causes that may not have equal effects.
C5 Energy and Matter. Students learn that the total amount of energy and matter in closed systems is conserved. They can describe changes of energy and matter in a system in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system. They also learn that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems. Energy drives the cycling of matter within and between systems. In nuclear processes, atoms are not conserved, but the total number of protons plus neutrons is conserved.
Disciplinary Core IdeasPermalink to Disciplinary Core Ideas
ESS1.A The Universe and its Stars. Stars range greatly in size and distance from Earth and this can explain their relative brightness.
ESS1.B Earth and the Solar System. The Earth’s orbit and rotation, and the orbit of the moon around the Earth cause observable patterns.
ESS2.D Weather & Climate. Climate describes patterns of typical weather conditions over different scales and variations. Historical weather patterns can be analyzed so that they can make predictions about what kind of weather might happen next.
ESS3.B Natural Hazards. A variety of hazards result from natural processes; humans cannot eliminate hazards but can reduce their impacts.
PS2.A Forces and Motion. The effect of unbalanced forces on an object results in a change of motion. Patterns of motion can be used to predict future motion. Some forces act through contact, some forces act even when the objects are not in contact. The gravitational force of Earth acting on an object near Earth’s surface pulls that object toward the planet’s center
PS3.A Definitions of Energy. Moving objects contain energy. The faster the object moves, the more energy it has. Energy can be moved from place to place by moving objects, or through sound, light, or electrical currents. Energy can be converted from one form to another form.
ESS1.A The Universe and its Stars. The universe began with a period of extreme and rapid expansion known as the Big Bang. Earth and its solar system are part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of many galaxies in the universe.
ESS1.B Earth and the Solar System. The solar system contains many varied objects held together by gravity. Solar system models explain and predict eclipses, tides, lunar phases, and seasons.
ESS2.D Weather & Climate. Complex interactions determine local weather patterns and influence climate, including the role of the ocean.
ESS3.B Natural Hazards. Mapping the history of natural hazards in a region and understanding related geological forces can help forecast the locations and likelihoods of future events, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and severe weather.
PS2.A Forces and Motion. The role of the mass of an object must be qualitatively accounted for in any change of motion due to the application of a force.
PS2.B Types of Interactions. Forces that act at a distance involve fields that can be mapped by their relative strength and effect on an object.
PS3.A Definitions of Energy. Kinetic energy can be distinguished from the various forms of potential energy. Energy changes to and from each type can be tracked through physical or chemical interactions. The relationship between the temperature and the total energy of a system depends on the types, states, and amounts of matter.
ESS1.A The Universe and its Stars. The sun is just one of more than 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and the Milky Way is just one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. The study of stars’ light spectra and brightness is used to identify compositional elements of stars, their movements, and their distances from Earth.
ESS1.B Earth and the Solar System. Kepler’s laws describe common features of the motions of orbiting objects. Observations from astronomy and space probes provide evidence for explanations of solar system formation. Changes in Earth’s tilt and orbit cause climate changes such as Ice Ages
ESS2.D Weather & Climate. The role of radiation from the sun and its interactions with the atmosphere, ocean, and land are the foundation for the global climate system. Global climate models are used to predict future changes, including changes influenced by human behavior and natural factors
ESS3.B Natural Hazards. Natural hazards and other geological events have shaped the course of human history at local, regional, and global scales. Human activities can contribute to the frequency and intensity of some natural hazards.
PS2.A Forces and Motion. Newton’s 2nd law (F=ma) and the conservation of momentum can be used to predict changes in the motion of macroscopic objects.
PS2.B Types of Interactions. Forces at a distance are explained by fields that can transfer energy and can be described in terms of the arrangement and properties of the interacting objects and the distance between them. These forces can be used to describe the relationship between electrical and magnetic fields.
PS3.A Definitions of Energy. The total energy within a system is conserved. Energy transfer within and between systems can be described and predicted in terms of energy associated with the motion or configuration of particles (objects).
Notable FeaturesPermalink to Notable Features
- Relatively smooth surface with almost no craters
- Color variation across the planet (previously thought to be seas of methane, but that has been disproved. True origin has not been discovered.)
- Large seas and lakes of methane at the north pole
Data SourcePermalink to Data Source