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February 21, 2011

More Similarities Found Between Earth's and Titan's Atmospheres

There are many differences between the atmosphere of Earth and that of Jupiter's moon Titan. For example, the atmosphere covering Titan is hazier than the worst smog on Earth and its atmosphere lacks water and oxygen. However, Titan's atmosphere is comprised of nitrogen (and other organic elements), just like Earth's, and some of the clouds on Titan are like the cirrus clouds here on Earth. Even lightning and drizzle have been found on Titan. Interesting features of Titan include that the northern hemisphere is currently colder than the southern, and so there are more clouds covering the northern region due to the fact that clouds are more likely to form in colder regions. Also, as opposed to the Earth's continuous cycle, hydrocarbons and other organic compounds fall to the surface of the moon due to precipitation, but then they do not evaporate to replenish what was lost in the atmosphere. I find it very interesting how a moon in the outer regions of the solar system can have more in common with the Earth than some planets closer to Earth. For such a seemingly small detail in the solar system, a lot can be learned from Titan and it has proved itself to be very unique and full of discoveries.

For more, check out NASA's article:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/whycassini/titan-clouds.html

Posted by brdoss at February 21, 2011 03:35 PM

Comments

Just a quick edit: I think Titan is Saturn's largest moon (not Jupiter). But also, it is cool to think that a planet's moon could have an atmosphere similar to Earth and even have seasons. Titan has 4 seasons like Earth, but they last 7 Earth years each. Just think about having a nice winter season...for 7 years. Yikes.

Posted by: scottymg at February 21, 2011 05:02 PM

Oh no, sorry, I meant Saturn.

Posted by: brdoss at February 21, 2011 05:41 PM

I think it is very possible to have small life forms develop on this planet (unicellular organisms, perhaps). After all, it seems to fulfill the conditions which were used in the Miller-Urey experiment which showed that amino acids (the basic components of DNA and proteins) can be formed from organic molecules, hydrocarbons, nitrogen, and lightning. But maybe it's just too cold on Titan to start life...But I guess we'll soon find out as more examination of Titan continues!

Posted by: jeffkong at February 21, 2011 07:13 PM

Like some of the others have posted, it's pretty incredible that a moon of Saturn has more in common with Earth than Venus or Mercury. One would most likely assume that it would more or less be a frozen wasteland, given its large distance from the Sun and the fact that it is indeed beyond the frost line. It obviously doesn't have the mass to form an outter gas layer like that of the gas giants, but even to have an atmosphere that has seasons other than freaking cold is pretty sweet. It inspires thought of life external to Earth.

Posted by: strodel at February 22, 2011 04:54 PM

I think it is very interesting that atmosphere's have such a profound effect on a planet or a moon. The reason Earth is more like Saturn's moon Titan rather than Venus or Mercury is mostly because of this atmosphere. Venus's atmosphere is much too thick and cloudy causing the planet to be very hot. Mercury is so close to the sun, that it would be hard to maintain any sort of atmosphere similar to Earth's at all. Since Titan's atmosphere has a very similar composition to Earth's, it makes it much more likely that we can find life there. This is because an atmosphere is vital to life. It keeps us warm, because it traps heat from the sun, and it also protects us from harmful energy getting in. I am very interested to see how future discoveries turn out, because there very well might be life on Titan.

Posted by: skritt at February 26, 2011 04:04 PM

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