Jung Ho Kim
School: Saint Johnsbury Academy
Although Titan’s lakes may not be conducive to the usual recreational activities of sailing and swimming due to its frigid and toxic atmosphere, data collection by the Cassini probe can shed further insight into the numerous unique characteristics that Titan possesses.
Titan’s lakes seem to have a dynamic character, as demonstrated by what astronomers have called a “magic blob” which is a mysterious phenomenon that has both appeared and vanished on its surface. Scientists speculate that its source may be deep-sea waves, bubbles coming up from the lake, suspended material beneath the surface, or icebergs. Data collection and pictures by the Cassini probe may give us clues on about its true nature and its influence on Titan’s lakes.
Titan’s lakes also could potentially harbor new kinds of microorganisms. Although the lakes are not made of water and are instead made primarily of ethane and methane, the fact that Titan and its lakes are filled with hydrocarbons still leaves the development of life there a distinct possibility. If new microorganisms were discovered, methane and ethane would most likely take the place of water in their cells, allowing us to see altogether new mechanisms of biochemistry using hydrocarbons instead.
Further analysis could also allow scientists to have a firmer grasp on the planetary processes which have shaped the formation of lakes on Titan’s landscape. Researchers predicted that Titan’s likely carbon-rich surface, potential summer rainfall and the dissolving abilities of its liquid methane, ethane, and propane, could form a karst topography of lakes throughout the course of tens of millions of years. By observing such planetary processes driven by Titan’s lakes, scientists could get a better picture of how the Earth’s own similar topology was shaped over time as well.
Additional study of Titan’s lakes could allow NASA to discover more about its many mysteries, the possible conditions there which may help potentiate life, and learn more about the processes which helped sculpt Earth’s own landscape into its into its present form. Out of the three targets for Cassini-Huygens satellite, Titan’s lake seems to be the most fruitful for the advancement of knowledge on the largest range of topics.