International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Saturn’s moon Titan has 100-m deep methane lakes


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cassini-Huygens Mission

Mains level : Hydrology of earth and other celestial bodies

  • Saturn’s largest moon Titan has small liquid lakes that run more than 100 metres deep, perched atop hills and filled with methane, scientists have found using data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

Methane Rains on Saturn

  • Scientists have known that Titan’s hydrologic cycle works similarly to Earth’s — with one major difference. Instead of water evaporating from seas, forming clouds and rain, Titan does it all with methane and ethane.
  • We tend to think of these hydrocarbons as a gas on Earth, unless they’re pressurized in a tank.
  • However, Titan is so cold that they behave as liquids, like gasoline at room temperature on our planet.

About Cassini Mission

  • Launched in 1997, the Cassini mission is a cooperation between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.
  • It has sent back thousands of stunning images and made numerous discoveries about the ringed planet and its moons.
  • Cassini–Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet Saturn.
  • Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit. Its design includes a Saturn orbiter and a lander for the moon Titan.
  • The lander, called Huygens, landed on Titan in 2005.
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