Unenhanced Hubble Telescope



The Face Behind The Veil. Titan is a little larger than Mercury--the smallest major planet inhabiting our Solar System. Indeed, Titan would have been classified as a major planet in its own right if it orbited our Sun instead of Saturn. The Huygens Probe images lifted the veil from the face of this distant moon-world, revealing a youthful surface that is both smooth and relatively free of impact craters. Huygens also found that this icy, hydrocarbon-saturated moon's climate includes those heavy rains of gasoline, as well as raging, roaring winds. Some of Titan's surface features were found to be hauntingly akin to certain surface features on Earth. The team's findings can also be applied to exoplanets, which are planets that circle stars beyond our own Sun. Some super-Earth exoplanets, which are rocky planets more massive than our own, have been proposed as "water worlds" covered with churning oceans. Could they have life? Perhaps. The potential would certainly be there. Dr. Vance and his team believe laboratory experiments and more sophisticated modeling of exotic oceans might help to find answers to these very profound questions. Ganymede, and four other moons dwelling in our Sun's family, possess liquid water beneath their frigid crusts of ice. The others are Saturn's moons, Titan and Enceladus, and two other Galilean moons of Jupiter--Europa and Callisto. Planetary scientists think the oceans of Europa and Enceladus are in contact with rock--thus making these two moons high-priority targets for future astrobiology missions.