Saturn's Largest Moon

What's the name of Saturn's largest moon?

And the answer: Titan.    

As the second largest moon in our solar system, Titan is larger than Mercury, and about 50% larger than Earth's moon. According to NASA, of all the places in the solar system, Titan is the only place besides Earth known to have liquids in the form of seas, rivers, and lakes on its surface.

Photo credit: NASA. 

In 1655, Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens had an inspired idea: if Galileo could find the moons of neighboring planets, so could he. Thus, using a telescope he constructed himself, Huygens set out to locate and name Saturn's moons. With abounding luck, Huygens gave way to a monumental discovery: Titan.

Titan was originally called Saturni Luna (quite literally Latin for "Saturn's moon"), yet the title quickly became too difficult to uphold as more and more moons were discovered around the ringed giant. Thus, the English scientist John Herschel proposed the names of mythological titans to be associated with Saturn's moons instead. In Greek mythology, the titans were a race of powerful deities who were dethroned by Kronos and banished to Mt. Olympus. Since Saturn was already a name which gestured at Roman significance, Titan seemed to fit, and the name stuck.

Titan is a moon of Saturn, but it's also one of the most complex non-planetary structures in our solar system. Rock, ice, water and sand all populate layers of this moon, giving way to nearly planetary conditions. The dense atmosphere hugs the ground, keeping the ground layers in place. Considering the gaseous and very disparate appearance of Saturn, one might beg the question: How did its largest moon get to be so different?

Well, the answer is an unsatisfying one. Scientists still aren't certain, but their educated guesses suggest that this moon might have been created in the Oort Cloud, a massive swath of comets which populates the outer edge of our solar system. The conditions in the Oort Cloud are icy, rocky and dusty – much like Titan itself.

Learn more about Titan below.


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