UK-based scientists have found that Saturn's moon Titan is far more similar to Earth than previously thought.
It was previously found to be the only object in the solar system - aside from Earth - to have rivers, rainfall and seas, The Huffington Post reported. Bigger than Mercury, Titan has a rockty surface.
Now, scientists have found another similarity: Polar wind. The polar wind is forcing gas from Titan's atmosphere out into space.
“We need to understand the mechanisms whereby Titan loses its atmosphere. We'd like to understand this better at Titan and at other objects,” Dr. Andrew Coates, a physics professor at the University College London, told The Huffington Post.
The escaping gas was discovered after it was found that particles were escaping from Titan's atmosphere, using data from NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft's Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS) instrument. The scientists concluded that there must be a widespread polar wind due to the distinctive spectra of particles detected.
“Titan’s atmosphere is made up mainly of nitrogen and methane, with 50 percent higher pressure at its surface than on Earth,” Coates stated. “Data from CAPS proved a few years ago that the top of Titan’s atmosphere is losing about seven tonnes of hydrocarbons and nitriles every day, but didn’t explain why this was happening. Our new study provides evidence for why this is happening.”
So, could Titan host human life?
“What it does have implications for is the atmospheric history of Titan over time,” Coates said. “As an astrobiological target, Titan is potentially interesting due to the hydrocarbon and nitrile species present, and the presence of a subsurface water ocean as shown in other studies. But it's thought Titan is and was too cold for life as yet - perhaps in a few billion years time when the Sun becomes a red giant and heats the outer solar system. More likely targets for past or present life are Mars, Europa and Enceladus.”SHOW MORE