Author Topic: Titan - atmosphere, weather, geology, magnetic environment  (Read 15008 times)

electrobleme

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Titan - atmosphere and geology

What is Saturns planet moon Titan really like. What does astronomy predict, what have we found and what will we find?

Is it really an icy rock planet or will it be discovered that it is similar to Earth, Mars, Mercury?  Comets were thought of as ice/snow balls but they are rock balls.

How has it got its atmosphere and kept it as Methane has a half life or 7 years?

Titan articles, news, abstracts

Satellite probe Huygens reveals Titan's surface secrets
Titan and Saturn - magnetospheres and magentic fields
Titans magnetic field - abstracts
Methane rain







« Last Edit: August 18, 2009, 11:16:58 by electrobleme »

electrobleme

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Satellite probe Huygens reveals Titan's surface secrets
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2009, 17:56:52 »

Huygens probe reveals Titan's secrets (Titan is Saturns planet moon)


Huygen probes descent showed Lichtenberg figure patterns
and its landing showed rocks, pebbles and stones

Quote

The European Space Agency's Huygens probe reached Saturn's moon Titan January 14. In the months since, planetary scientists have analyzed reams of data, trying to make sense of this giant moon (3,200 miles [5,150 kilometers] in diameter) — the only one in the solar system with a thick atmosphere. Researchers presented their latest results at a press conference November 30 in Paris.

The probe landed on Titan's surface after a 2-hour-and-28-minute parachute descent through its haze-shrouded, nitrogen-rich atmosphere. Images of the surface show a world that resembles Earth in many ways, with structures that appear to be carved by flowing liquid — although in Titan's case, the liquid is probably methane. The probe descended over a boundary between bright icy terrain and a darker area that looks like a dry lakebed. The probe landed in the dark area, where pebbles of water ice stretch to the horizon.


Titan's water-ice rocks
The atmospheric haze extends to the surface. This finding disagrees with pre-encounter predictions, which suggested clear views would rule below an altitude of about 35 miles (60 km). Fortunately, the haze was transparent enough below 25 miles (40 km) that the spacecraft's camera took excellent images.

Working with scientists on Huygens sister spacecraft, the Saturn-orbiting Cassini, members of the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) team pinpointed the landing site to within 3 miles (5 km). The probe landed at 192.3° west longitude and 10.3° south latitude. "It's important that we know from an orbital perspective what kind of terrain the Huygens probe landed in," says DISR team member Bashar Rizk of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. "It allows us to connect what Huygens found in detail about a small patch of Titan's surface to what the orbiter is accumulating now."

The DISR images reveal two types of channel networks carving the surface. The steeply sloped main drainage channels — about 300 to 650 feet (100 to 200 meters) wide and 150 to 300 feet (50 to 100 meters) deep — branch throughout the bright highland areas. Scientists think rapidly flowing rivers of liquid methane cut them. The second type are short, stubby channels that often begin or end in dark circular areas. The scientists think these channels are fed by springs.


Titan's surface
The landing site proved to be cold: –291.1° Fahrenheit (-179.5° Celsius) — and relatively smooth, but not completely flat. The undulating topography had a vertical relief of about 3 feet over an area of 10,000 square feet (1 meter over 1,000 square meters). Surface images show more than 50 water-ice rocks varying in size from 0.1 inch to 6 inches (3mm to 15cm) across.

The surface itself appears to be relatively soft, resembling wet clay. Researchers have backed off their initial interpretation that the surface has a thin, hard crust, which they likened to crème brûlée. Instead, they think the probe's penetrometer first struck a hard pebble before digging in 4 inches (10cm).

Huygens' analysis of Titan's atmosphere shows it contains no xenon or krypton, noble gases that should be present if the atmosphere had not changed since the moon's early days. This means its current nitrogen-rich atmosphere didn't begin that way. Instead, scientists think Titan's nitrogen evolved from a early atmosphere consisting mostly of ammonia — the same way Earth's nitrogen atmosphere apparently developed.

The second-most abundant gas in Titan's atmosphere is haze-causing methane, and scientists now believe it comes from geological activity in the moon's interior. The amount of atmospheric methane near the surface is about 5 percent, some 3 times higher than in the moon's stratosphere. This confirms the methane condenses near the surface.

Methane is broken down by sunlight and particles from space. If surface lakes and pools were the only sources of atmospheric methane, all of Titan's methane would have been lost within 100 million years — a brief flash in the moon's 4.5-billion-year history. So, the scientists conclude internal geological activity must drive methane to the surface and then into the atmosphere, where it rains down to form Titan's varied surface features.
astronomy.com - The Huygens spacecraft landed on Saturn's planet moon Titan 11 months ago revealing its thick atmosphere and geologically active surface.






electrobleme

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Titan and Saturn - magnetospheres and magentic fields
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2009, 18:34:56 »
Titan/Saturns Magnetosphere, Magnetopause and Magnetic Fields


Quote
Since magnetospheres of other planets around the solar system are composed of highly charged ions and electrons, it is only natural to be intrigued and study the effects of that magnetosphere on the planet's satellites, such as the effects on Saturn's largest moon Titan, for example.

As Cassini approached Saturn, its Ion and Neutron Camera was able to take data that lead to a determination of the Magnetosphere and Magnetopause. In the image below, excitation of hydrogen ions gives rise to the orange glow that indicates the extent of the magnetosheath.   

Saturn's moon Titan is the second largest in the solar system -- and the only one with a dense atmosphere. The atmosphere, nitrogen and methane, resembles that of the early Earth. NASA's Cassini spacecraft peered through the atmosphere, imaged the haze layers -- and ESA's Huygens probe landed on the surface. Now, scientists are analyzing the ninth flyby of Titan, or T9 flyby, which took place on December 26, 2005. They have measured the ion measurements of the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer. Surprisingly, they found that the plasma flow and magnetic field directions in the distant plasma environment of Titan were distinctly different than other flybys. The ion measurements of the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer were presented, and the scientists discovered that the plasma flow and magnetic field directions in the distant plasma environment of the moon were distinctly different from the other flybys.

The T9 flyby was really outstanding because neither the flow direction, nor the magnetic field configuration was even close to their average values. Two special regions were observed along the sc orbit where the ion energy was lower than the ambient magnetospheric flow, and the electron density was higher. The scientists theorize that the second region (event-2) belongs to the distant tail region of Titan, whereas "event-1" was the result of a specific magnetic field configuration that allowed ions to escape by spiraling along the magnetic field lines towards the spacecraft from the mantle of Titan.

nasa.gov - The Charged Particle Environment of Titan

electrobleme

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Titans magnetic field - abstracts
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2009, 18:59:25 »

Titans magnetic environment


Charged particle environment of Titan during the T9 flyby
Quote
The ion measurements of the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer are presented which were acquired on 26 December 2005, during the T9 flyby at Titan. The plasma flow and magnetic field directions in the distant plasma environment of the moon were distinctly different from the other flybys. The near-Titan environment, dominated by ions of Titan origin, had a split signature, each with different ion composition; the first region was dominated by dense, slow, and cold ions in the 16–19 and 28–40 amu mass range, the second region contained only ions with mass 1 and 2, much less dense and less slow. Magnetospheric ions penetrate marginally into region 1, whereas the region-2 ion population is mixed. A detailed analysis has led us to conclude that the first event was due to the crossing of the mantle of Titan, whereas the second one very likely was a wake crossing. The split indicates the non-convexity of the ion-dominated volume around Titan. Both ion distributions are analysed in detail.
Abstract - charged particle environment of Titan during the T9 flyby

Structure of Titan's mid-range magnetic tail: Cassini magnetometer observations during the T9 flyby
Quote
We analyze the magnetic structure of Titan's mid-range magnetic tail (5–6 Titan radii downstream from the moon) during Cassini's T9 flyby. Cassini magnetometer (MAG) measurements reveal a well-defined, induced magnetic tail consisting of two lobes and a distinct central current sheet. MAG observations also indicate that Saturn's background magnetic field is close to the moon's orbital plane and that the magnetospheric flow has a significant component in the Saturn-Titan direction. The analysis of MAG data in a coordinate system based on the orientation of the background magnetic field and an estimation of the incoming flow direction suggests that Titan's magnetic tail is extremely asymmetric. An important source of these asymmetries is the connection of the inbound tail lobe and the outbound tail lobe to the dayside and nightside hemispheres of Titan, respectively. Another source could be the perturbations generated by changes in the upstream conditions.
Abstract - Structure of Titan's mid-range magnetic tail: Cassini magnetometer observations during the T9 flyby


electrobleme

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Titan - Methane rain
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2009, 11:16:05 »

Methane rain and drizzle on Titan

Quote
Liquid methane drizzles on the surface of Titan, a moon of Saturn, according to a paper by NASA and university scientists that appears in today's issue of the journal, Nature.

Data from the European Space Agency's Huygens probe indicates there is a lower, barely visible, liquid methane-nitrogen cloud that drops rain to the surface of Titan, reported a team of scientists from universities, an observatory and NASA. The probe collected the data on January 14, 2005, when it approached and landed on Titan.

"The rain on Titan is just a slight drizzle, but it rains all the time, day in, day out. It makes the ground wet and muddy with liquid methane. This is why the Huygens probe landed with a splat. It landed in methane mud," said Christopher McKay, a scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley and second author of the study. The principal author is Tetsuya Tokano from the University of Cologne, Germany.

On Titan, the clouds and rain are formed of liquid methane. On Earth, methane is a flammable gas, but Titan has no oxygen in its atmosphere that could support combustion. Also, the temperatures on Titan are so cold -- minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 149 degrees Celsius) -- that the methane can form liquid. Titan's landscape includes fluvial, river-like features that may well be formed by methane rain, scientists noted.

A gap separates the liquid methane cloud -- the source of the rain -- from a higher, upper methane ice cloud, according to the scientific study. Scientists say the downward flow of methane due to the rain is balanced by upward transport of methane gas by large-scale atmospheric circulation.

According to scientists, the rain comes from thin clouds of methane. The upper clouds are methane ice, and the lower clouds are liquid and composed of a combination of methane and nitrogen. Computer models indicate these thin liquid methane clouds cover about half of Titan, even though methane abundance on the moon decreases with latitude, the team reported.

"We determined that the rain on Titan is equal to about two inches (about 5 centimeters) a year," McKay said. "This is about as much rain as Death Valley (receives). The difference is (that) on Titan, this rain is spread out evenly over the entire year."

The scientists reported that erosion potential from the very light methane drizzle may be quite limited, but at least would be sufficient to wet the surface material, and may explain its generally wet character.
NASA Reports That Methane Drizzles on Saturn's Moon, Titan