Saturn’s moon Titan is a special member of our Solar System. Like Earth and Venus, and unlike any other moon, it has a rocky surface and a thick atmosphere. It is the only object in the Solar System aside from Earth that has rivers, rainfall and seas. Because of these features, it has been studied extensively, most recently by the Cassini probe.
Just like in Earth’s polar regions, a recent study by the scientists of UCL, found that due to interactions between Titan’s atmosphere, and the solar magnetic field and radiation, a wind of hydrocarbons and nitriles is being blown away from its polar regions into space.
“Titan’s atmosphere is made up mainly of nitrogen and methane, with 50% higher pressure at its surface than on Earth,” said Andrew Coates (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory), who led the study. “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.”
This polar wind has only been observed on Earth before, in the polar regions where Earth’s magnetic field is open. Because Titan does not have a magnetic field of its own, the same thing can occur over wider regions, not just near the poles. Titan, despite being in the far reaches of the Solar System and in orbit around a gas giant, is one of the most Earth-like objects ever studied.