Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun, whichhas at least 82 natural satellites. Most of them are very small in size, but among them there is a large satellite, Titan. This is the only celestial body besides the Earth, on the surface of which there is definitely water. It also has a dense atmosphere that can protect potentially living organisms from dangerous cosmic radiation. Therefore, it is completely logical to assume that life can exist on this satellite. In general, this is a very interesting place from a scientific point of view, but its study is not being conducted as actively as we would like. Most of the information about Titan came from the Cassini space mission, which lasted from 2004 to 2017. The collected data are still being studied and scientists sometimes make very interesting discoveries and assumptions. Let's find out what they know about potential life on Titan?
Study of Titan with the Cassini apparatus
The Cassini spacecraft was launched on 15October 1997 and reached Saturn on June 30, 2004. The device itself was designed to study Saturn, and the Huygens lander was used to conduct research on its satellite Titan. The device successfully entered Titan's atmosphere on January 14, 2005 and softly landed on its hard surface. At the same time, the developers did not exclude the possibility of landing on water. In total, the Huygens apparatus had to perform 5 scientific tasks:
- determine such physical characteristics of Titan's atmosphere as density, pressure, temperature, and so on;
- calculate the percentage of the substances that make up the atmosphere of Titan;
- investigate the chemical processes that occur in the atmosphere of the satellite;
- to study the natural phenomena that occur on the satellite: are there clouds there, are there thunderstorms, and so on;
- assess the physical condition of Titan's surface.
Read also: Everything you wanted to know about Titan's methane lakes, but hesitated to ask
Facts about Titan, the moon of Saturn
Some time after the descent, the apparatussent some very interesting data on Titan. It turned out that the temperature on its surface is about -179 degrees Celsius. The top of the moon's clouds are made up of methane ice, while the bottom is made up of liquid methane and nitrogen. During the descent, the device took several pictures in which traces of the presence of water are noticeable: river beds and coastlines. Also, stones with a diameter of about 15 centimeters were noticed, on which traces of water exposure are also visible.
One of the surprises for scientists wasdetection of yellow methane haze in the atmosphere, which interferes with observing the surface of a celestial body. It is present at all altitudes, although the researchers expected the atmosphere to be transparent below 60 kilometers. But in general, the atmosphere of the satellite is very similar to that of the Earth, if only in that it is based on nitrogen. According to scientists, at the moment, conditions on Titan are almost the same as on Earth 2.8 billion years ago. That is, there is now a kind of Mesoarchean era reigning there. But at this time life already existed on Earth ...
Interesting fact: in the Mesoarchean era, almost the entire surface of the Earthwas covered by a shallow ocean. The land was, but was represented by small volcanic islands. Over time, they grew, which led to the formation of large continents.
Life on Titan
If so, then on Titan rightthe first cyanobacteria may now exist. I wrote about these organisms in this article. Once upon a time, they were actively involved in converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into oxygen gas. This led to the establishment of the current ratio of nitrogen and oxygen on Earth, which is very important for the existence of life. So, who knows - maybe billions of years later, people will also appear on the moon of Saturn? And they, too, will develop, build rockets and try to unravel the mysteries of space?
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In the future, NASA aerospace agencyplans to study Titan using the Dragonfly spacecraft. It is assumed that it will be made in the form of a rotorcraft capable of flying across the vastness of the satellite. The launch of the device is planned to be carried out in 2027. In this case, he will reach the moon of Saturn by 2036. It is expected to operate for at least 2.5 years, but the mission may be extended.