Titan, Saturns largest moon, is a mysterious place. Its thick atmosphere is rich in organic compounds. Some of them would be signs of life if they were on our planet. How do they form on Titan? Will they help us to discover how life began on Earth?
ESAs Huygens probe, arriving at Titan in 2005, will help find answers. Here on Earth, ground-based telescopes are playing their part also. They will help scientists to decide how and where precisely Huygens will land. What will it be - on solid ground or in an ocean of methane?
NASAs Voyager 1 provided the first detailed images of Titan in 1980. They showed only an opaque, orange atmosphere, apparently homogeneus. It was so thick that you could not see the surface. However, other data revealed exciting things. Similarly to Earth, Titans atmosphere is mostly nitrogen but there is also methane and many other organic compounds.
Jean-Pierre Lebreton | alfa
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