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Facts about Titan Saturn’s Moon For Kids

Titan (or Saturn VI) is the largest moon of Saturn. It is the only natural satellite known to have a dense atmosphere, and the only object other than Earth where clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found.

  • It is the second-largest moon in the Solar System, after Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, and is larger by volume than the smallest planet, Mercury, although only 40% as massive.
  • Discovered in 1655 by the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, Titan was the first known moon of Saturn, and the fifth known satellite of another planet.
  • Much as with Venus before the Space Age, the dense opaque atmosphere prevented understanding of Titan’s surface until new information accumulated when the Cassini–Huygens mission arrived in 2004, including the discovery of liquid hydrocarbon lakes in Titan’s polar regions.
  • The atmosphere of Titan is largely nitrogen; minor components lead to the formation of methane and ethane clouds and nitrogen-rich organic smog.
  • With its liquids and robust nitrogen atmosphere, Titan’s methane cycle is viewed as an analogy to Earth’s water cycle, although at a much lower temperature.
  • After Giovanni Domenico Cassini published his discoveries of four more moons of Saturn between 1673 and 1686, astronomers fell into the habit of referring to these and Titan as Saturn I through V.
  • The name Titan, and the names of all seven satellites of Saturn then known, came from John Herschel in his 1847 publication Results of Astronomical Observations Made at the Cape of Good Hope.
  • Viewed from Earth, Titan reaches an angular distance of about 20 Saturn radii from Saturn and subtends a disk 0.8 arcseconds in diameter.
  • Based on its bulk density of 1.88 g/cm, Titan’s bulk composition is half water ice and half rocky material.
  • Surface features were observed by the Cassini spacecraft to systematically shift by up to 19 mi between October 2005 and May 2007, which suggests that the crust is decoupled from the interior, and provides additional evidence for an interior liquid layer.
  • However, whereas Jupiter possesses four large satellites in highly regular, planet-like orbits, Titan overwhelmingly dominates Saturn’s system and possesses a high orbital eccentricity not immediately explained by co-accretion alone.
  • In 2014, analysis of Titan’s atmospheric nitrogen suggested that it has possibly been sourced from material similar to that found in the Oort cloud and not from sources present during co-accretion of materials around Saturn.