For those of you who were planning on taking a trip to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, to swim in one of its many lakes, you might want to rethink that. It has long been hypothesized that Titan has lakes
, but it was not until July of 2006 that researches were able to confirm their suspicions. The northern region of Titan has over 75 lakes, but not lakes of water like here on Earth. In contrast, these lakes are full of liquid methane.
On Earth, methane is in the form of a gas. Titan is so cold however (90 degrees Kelvin), that methane is in a liquid form. The other element that is thought to be found in the lakes is ethane. Scientists believe that if an Earthling was looking over the surface of one of these methane-ethane lakes, it would look very much like an Earth lake. The “water” would be transparent and probably ripple like Earth lakes do.
This is an important discovery for scientists since Titan is now the only body in space, besides Earth, that is known to currently have a fluid, liquid cycle. (It has been known for years that Mars experienced this liquid cycle in the past.) Titan is also experiencing erosion and rain. Scientists can study how climates evolve on Titan and compare the findings to what we have already discovered by studying Earth.
Titan is also important to study because it has similar elements that Earth did when our planet was still forming. For example, Titan has ice and water; important building blocks of life that perhaps tell us where we came from, how we evolved, and what chemicals were involved in the process. Scientists hope by studying this far away moon, we will have a better understanding of how life originated on Earth.