Titan provides us with an Earth-like, yet alternative atmospheric circulation system to study. Titan’s atmosphere is similar to Earth’s both in the predominance of nitrogen gas and in surface pressure, which is about 1.5 bars, or 50 percent higher than sea-level pressure on Earth. Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is a mysterious place; and the more we learn about it, the more surprises it seems to have in store. The observation of seasonal climate changes on an alien world may possibly help us better understand how things work on Earth too. Among our solar system’s more than 150 known moons, Titan is the only one with a substantial atmosphere. [See amazing photos of Titan]. Titan's surface temperature is about 94 K (−179.2 °C). Like Earth, the surface temperature of Titan, which is usually in the chilly mid-90 kelvins (around minus 288 degrees Fahrenheit), was significantly warmer in the late afternoon than around dawn. Titan receives just about 1% of the amount of sunlight Earth does. There was a general feeling of excitement and perplexity: what lay beneath this atmosphere? At this temperature, water ice has an extremely low vapor pressure, so the little water vapor present appears limited to the stratosphere. She started observing Titan from the ground in 2002, at the beginning of her PhD, two years before Cassini arrived. It has lakes of liquid methane, and even weather. You will receive a verification email shortly. "I was monitoring the weather on Titan using the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea. Before that, Saturn's largest satellite had only been hastily approached by a handful of space probes. Evaporated liquids create clouds, which are carried around the planet by winds — and probably cause precipitation. Receive news and offers from our other brands? See the Behind the Scenes Archive. Moreover, Titan's atmospheric cycle is not a water cycle. When I started my thesis, it was December 22. Titan’s atmosphere is much colder, however, having a temperature at the surface of … The Weather on Saturn's Moon Titan Is Even More Extreme And Earth-Like Than We Thought . NY 10036. © Please refresh the page and try again. Sure enough, there was a huge cloud in the tropics." On Earth, those are gases, but the extremely cold temperature of Titan, around -290°F (-180°C), allows them to be liquid as well (and maybe even solid). "Every morning I download and process that data to determine the amount of cloud cover on Titan. It was the first time such an observation was made. Please deactivate your ad blocker in order to see our subscription offer. Thank you for signing up to Live Science. So what is it like to study the daily changes of another world? Visit our corporate site. And unveil them it did. Please refresh the page and try again. On Earth, those are gases, but the extremely cold temperature of Titan, around -290°F (-180°C), allows them to be liquid as well (and maybe even solid). In 1980, the Voyager-1 spacecraft took advantage of a flyby to take a few mysterious, yet frustrating close-ups of Titan's opaque, rusty atmosphere. I emailed Henry Roe, and the next night he triggered observations on Gemini. Get breaking space news and the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more! It was designed, right after Voyager's visit, by a scientific community eager to unveil those new mysteries. Despite its color, Titan actually seemed to look a lot like the early Earth. This Behind the Scenes article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation. You can tell when there are clouds because the dot gets brighter at certain wavelengths. New York, Titan's climate is expected to change rapidly in the coming months, as the distant Saturn system reached the spring equinox in August 2009. Receive news and offers from our other brands? This process is called comparative planetology. The average surface temperature is about 90.6 K (-182.55°C, or -296.59°F). Stay up to date on the coronavirus outbreak by signing up to our newsletter today. And of all the places in the solar system, Titan is the only place besides Earth known to have liquids in the form of rivers, lakes and seas on its surface. The IRTF cannot resolve Titan's globe: it just sees a point of light. Though there might be a chance of life further down in the interior of Titan.". Exotic concepts have been proposed, such as balloons or boats to study the lakes, as part of a so-called Titan Saturn System Mission. Earlier this year, even fog was discovered at Titan's South Pole. There was a problem. It is instead an exotic climate of hydrocarbons that features methane and ethane. This sequence of maps shows varying surface temperatures on Saturn's moon Titan at two-year intervals, from 2004 to 2016. Scientists try to predict what the impact of the coming Northern spring will be. The National Science Foundation-supported Gemini telescope, equipped with adaptive optics, is able to take a resolved picture of Titan's disk to determine the latitudes and longitudes of the clouds Schaller detected with IRTF. New York, "The day I handed in my dissertation, I reduced the daily data and was just shocked. "I joke that it was Titan's little present to me," said Schaller. Visit our corporate site. Titan’s atmosphere is unbreathable, but if you were standing on Titan you would not need a pressurized space suit, only a breathing mask and protection from the cold. I thought at first I did something wrong. They are using Earth atmospheric models, modified for Titan's smaller size and temperature. 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