Thursday, July 30, 2009

Titan -The Orange Moon on Saturn

Recently I watched a program on the Science Channel, SciQ, called Titan – a place like home? This was a report of an exploration of a moon on Saturn to learn about the moon and life. The description for the program reads; Titan is believed to have an atmosphere very similar to that of Earth nearly four billion years ago, just as life began. Could Titan hold the key to the origins of life?

Don’t get too excited about Titan just yet or pack your bags for an excursion.

Titan is one of the moons on the planet Saturn, actually, the largest moon, according to the report. It has an orange glow which captured the interest of scientists for some years now, since 1980 when it was first discovered. As a result, scientists of the European Space Agency built the spacecraft Cassini and attached the Huygens that would land on the surface to report back the findings. The exploration, which costs multi millions of dollars, revealed pictures about the surface of the orange moon, Titan.

Titan - A Place Like Home?: Cassini - The Need for Speed -
The Cassini-Huygens was programmed to align with the planets to be able to get the bounce it needs to reach Saturn in the distance. This alignment is not expected to occur again for 600 years. The spacecraft accelerated with the gravitational pull of Venus and got two boosts via earth and ‘flung’ to Jupiter. The craft lined up with Jupiter and got a sling shot effect, to gain a final “almighty push towards Saturn.” Isn’t that cool!

The Huygens landed on Titan in January 2005, sniffed and tasted the atmosphere and took pictures and samples of the surface. Here is another outstanding happening. The Huygens could not send its report directly back to earth because it did not have a strong enough signal. It beamed the data to Cassini. The Cassini then sends the information to the European Space Agency center for analysis. Talk about a super highway relay!

The pictures revealed that
Titan landscape have some similarities with the earth in terms of the landscape but has carbon-based chemicals throughout. It is said to have a bizarre form of water – ammonia based-, liquid methane, rocks made of ice, a lower freezing point and, a smoke like haze in the atmosphere and cryovolcanoes or ice volcanoes.

So we are still with the age old question and the challenge for scientists to figure out how life began. The finding here is that most things are there, similar to earth but no proof that life exist there.
Another challenge for the scientists is to figure out how to expand the amount of time humans can spend in space without sustaining the type of damage astronought get. At this point humans can not endure more than one year in space because of the significant and irreparable bone loss the astronauts suffer. This loss is attributable to lack of usage of the limbs.

For life as we know it, it seems earth still rules! I am not sure that Titan is like home but it is very interesting.

Maybe it’s not the big bang but creation?!

Check out the program on Discovery Science, SciQ.

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