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Bulk Characteristics of Titan Diameter: 5,150 km Average Density: 1.88 g/cm 3 Surface Temperature: 97K Surface Pressure: 1.5 bars Theorized to have.

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Presentation on theme: "Bulk Characteristics of Titan Diameter: 5,150 km Average Density: 1.88 g/cm 3 Surface Temperature: 97K Surface Pressure: 1.5 bars Theorized to have."— Presentation transcript:




4 Bulk Characteristics of Titan Diameter: 5,150 km Average Density: 1.88 g/cm 3 Surface Temperature: 97K Surface Pressure: 1.5 bars Theorized to have an interior liquid layer composed of ammonia and water ice

5 Guide to Titan Titan parallels early Earth ▫ Lakes, Atmosphere, Clouds, Rain, Volcanoes, Plate Tectonics. Only other body in solar system known to harbor stable liquids on its surface. ▫ Weather cycle ▫ Good indications for life or at the very least, pre-earth conditions.

6 Atmosphere Only known moon with an atmosphere Denser than Earth’s ▫ 1.19 times as massive. Result of volcanism or microbial life. Like a young planet Earth. ▫ Research simulated atmospheric conditions and were given the building blocks of life.

7 Rain on Titan Recorded evidence of methane rainstorms on Titan in Occurred over equator, rather than at poles. Replenishes methane lakes and river systems. Skepticism on whether this is any indication of life.


9 Methane Lakes Thanks to Triple Point and rain, Methane Lakes exist on Titan’s surface Only known terrestrial body other than Earth to have stable liquids on its surface. Not difficult to land.

10 Cryovolcano Winter, S Hemisphere. Sotra Facula is a cryovolcano ▫ Emits water with ammonium, or polyethylene, paraffin waxes, or asphalt. Possibly replenishes methane in atmosphere. Located at 12degrees S / 39.8 degrees W 235 km wide

11 Habitability of Titan Titan’s PHI is 0.64 Solid Surface ▫ Evidence of tectonics Atmosphere ▫ Nitrogen and Hydrocarbons ▫ Believed to be similar to Earth’s atmosphere before oxygen was introduced Surface Liquid ▫ Titan’s 93K surface temperature is directly above the triple point for methane (90.68K)


13 Triple Point The temperature and pressure at which the three phases (gas, liquid, and solid) of that substance coexist in equilibrium. Different changes in temp and pressure transform substance to ice, liquid, vapor. EARTH’S SURFACE: temps and pressures similar to the triple pt of WATER. TITAN’S SURFACE: temps and pressures similar to the triple pt of METHANE. Image Source:

14 Possibility for Methanogenic Life 2005 – Chris McKay suggested that methane-based (rather than water-based) life on Titan could consume hydrogen, acetylene, and ethane – i.e. organisms called methanogens. EARTH = O2 metabolism Image Source: C 6 H 12 O 6 (glucose) + O 2 -> CO 2 + H 2 O

15 Methanogenic Life (continued) Titan’s organisms would: Inhale H2  instead of O2 React it with acetylene (or CO2)  instead of glucose Exhale methane  instead of carbon dioxide Water is widespread on Earth, therefore life is widespread on Earth because it uses water. Analogous to Earth = Liquid methane lakes are widespread on the surface of Titan. C 2 H 2 (acetylene) + 3H 2 -> 2CH 4 Photo source: TITAN= H2 metabolism

16 The Miller-Urey Experiment The Experiment (1953): ▫ INORGANIC components  ORGANIC components in conditions similar to pre-biotic Earth. ▫ Warm water + four gases [ H2O, CH4, NH3, and H2 ] + electrical discharges ▫ Formed simple organic molecules, including amino acids and RNA nucleotides. ▫ Formed the idea that on pre-biotic Earth there existed an abundance of RNA life produced through chemical reactions. In the search for extraterrestrial life? Helps to understand the conditions required for life to form. Titan’s atmosphere lacks oxygen, but complex organic molecules are present. ▫  Could form biological materials in a pre-biotic habitat resembling that of early Earth. Photo source:

17 Yellow = hazy surface of Titan Light gray = ice layer starting near the surface Blue = internal ocean Light gray = another layer of ice Dark gray = mixture of rock and ice in the interior Titan as a Prebiotic Environment? Possible host for microbial extraterrestrial life because of its pre-biotic-like environment rich in complex organic chemistry. Possibly subsurface liquid ocean serving as a biotic environment. Implications of a possible ammonia-water ocean inside Titan.

18 Past Mission: Cassini-Huygens NASA / ESA / ASI Spacecraft to study Saturn and its satellites. Launched in 1997, reached system in 2004 Cassini: first to enter Saturn’s orbit. ▫ To study structure and history of the rings and satellite surfaces. ▫ Studies Titan’s cloud, hazes, and regional surfaces.

19 Huygens Probe Reached Titan Jan 14 th, 2005 Sent data for 90 minutes after touchdown. Designed to brake in atmosphere and parachute a robotic lab to the surface. Sent signals to Cassini to relay back to Earth.


21 Huygens Design Heat shield and parachute. 6 Types of Instrumentation to study: ▫ Physical and electrical props of atmosphere ▫ Radiation balance in Titan’s atmosphere ▫ Chemicals in Titan’s atmosphere ▫ Volatiles and decompose complex organic materials ▫ Physical properties at point of impact.

22 Huygens Findings Landed in “Titanian Mud” Rounded pebbles imply possible fluid motion. Dense cloud or thick haze ~ 18 – 20 km from surface.

23 Two New Proposals: TSSM and TiME Titan Saturn System Mission ▫ Consists of an orbiter and 2 probes. ▫ More features than Huygens. Titan Mare Explorer ▫ Land in and travel around a methane lake. ▫ To sample and analyze organics for 3 – 6 months. ▫ New power source: Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator.

24 Goals of TSSM & TiME Explore Titan as a system. Study Titan’s organic inventory and astrobiological potential Constrain Titan’s origin and evolution models. Recover information on Enceladus and Saturn’s magnetosphere.

25 Landing on Titan Mission: PLOT Probe for Life and Organics on Titan Land in Lake Ontario Lacus Possibly explore nearby cryovolcano Look for Evidence of Life: CO2, acetylene, amino acids, enzymes, isotopic fingerprints ▫ Use Cassini to relay back data

26 Landing on Titan Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator ▫ Powerful generator currently being developed by NASA. ▫ ≥14 year lifetime ▫ Mass ~ 20 kg ▫ Uses 0.8 kg plutonium-238 ▫ January 2015 Source: NASA

27 Testing Mass Spectrometer Composite Infrared Spectrometer ▫ Test for hotspots in lake MOD III Seismometer Camera Image Source: NASA

28 Mission Target- Ontario Lacus Located at 72° S & 183°W Composed of methane, ethane, and propane. Volume: 7-50 km 3

29 Ontario Lacus

30 Tour of Ontario Lacus l7bHSw

31 Timeline 2017: Launch 2024: Land The goal is to land and test during winter in the Southern Hemisphere.


33 Cost of Mission Proposed Cost: 1 billion ▫ Includes cost of designing and launching a new probe. ▫ Use of the orbiter from the Cassini mission will cut costs Cassini-Huygens mission (launched 1997) cost NASA 3.2 billion !

34 Bibliography … is expensive but IMPORTANT! The Search for Life

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