Titan's Atmosphere and Climate

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
February 28, 2017
Filed under
Titan's Atmosphere and Climate

Titan is the only moon with a substantial atmosphere, the only other thick N2 atmosphere besides Earth’s, the site of extraordinarily complex atmospheric chemistry that far surpasses any other solar system atmosphere, and the only other solar system body with stable liquid currently on its surface.

The connection between Titan’s surface and atmosphere is also unique in our Solar system; atmospheric chemistry produces materials that are deposited on the surface and subsequently altered by surface-atmosphere interactions such as aeolian and fluvial processes resulting in the formation of extensive dune fields and expansive lakes and seas.

Titan’s atmosphere is favorable for organic haze formation, which combined with the presence of some oxygen bearing molecules indicates that Titan’s atmosphere may produce molecules of prebiotic interest. The combination of organics and liquid, in the form of water in a subsurface ocean and methane/ethane in the surface lakes and seas, means that Titan may be the ideal place in the solar system to test ideas about habitability, prebiotic chemistry, and the ubiquity and diversity of life in the Universe.

The Cassini-Huygens mission to the Saturn system has provided a wealth of new information allowing for study of Titan as a complex system. Here I review our current understanding of Titan’s atmosphere and climate forged from the powerful combination of Earth-based observations, remote sensing and \emph{in situ} spacecraft measurements, laboratory experiments, and models. I conclude with some of our remaining unanswered questions as the incredible era of exploration with Cassini-Huygens comes to an end.

Sarah M. Hörst
(Submitted on 28 Feb 2017)

Comments: 11 Figures, 1 table, a lot of pages. Accepted in JGR Planets
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1702.08611 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1702.08611v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Sarah Hörst
[v1] Tue, 28 Feb 2017 02:48:17 GMT (7920kb,D)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻