Astronomy 161 - Introduction to Solar System Astronomy - Autumn 2007

Saturn is attended by a system of 60 known moons and bright, beautiful

rings. Today we will explore the moons of Saturn. Among the highlights

are Saturn's lone giant moon, Titan, the 2nd largest moon in the Solar

System and the only one with a heavy atmosphere. The atmosphere of

Titan is mostly nitrogen with a little methane, but the temperature and

pressure are such that methane plays the same role on Titan that water

plays on the Earth: it can be either a solid, gas, or liquid. The

Cassini and Huygens probes have recently shown that there is evidence of

liquid methane flows and mudflats, and even liquid methane lakes as big

as the Great Lakes or Caspian seas on Earth. The other moon of interest

is Enceladus. The shiniest object in the Solar System, Enceladus has

spectacular fountains - cryovolcanos - that spew water vapor from

reservoirs created in its tidally-heated interior. This ice repaves

much of the surface of Enceladus, giving it a young, shiny surface, and

builds the E ring of Saturn. Recorded 2007 Nov 20 in 1000 McPherson Lab

on the Columbus campus of The Ohio State University.

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