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An ocean or lake of liquid ethane as it may appear from the surface of Saturn's moon Titan; organonitrogen haze; hydrocarbon haze; tholin; smog; anti-greenhouse effect - Space Art Illustration

Titan's ethane ocean

Compared to the Earth, Titan is very far from the Sun's warming rays--about ten times further--and this leaves Titan a very cold world. Titan has an average surface temperature of minus 290 F. 

If there is any water on Titan it is frozen hard as steel, yet Titan may be the only body in the Solar System besides the Earth that harbors a liquid ocean.* Titan's ocean would not be one of water, rather it would probably be composed of (very cold) liquid ethane. (On the Earth we know ethane as a colorless, odorless, nontoxic, flammable gas, a constituent of natural gas and petroleum.)

If this weren't exotic enough, immediately beneath this ocean may lie hundreds of feet of frozen acetylene (a common component of welder's torches).

* NASA's and ESA's ongoing Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn has uncovered compelling evidence that Titan's surface has been shaped extensively by flowing liquids--probably methane and/or ethane--in the recent geological past; however, as of March 2005, the jury is still out on whether Titan's surface hosts any kind of liquid today. 


Copyright Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.

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