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With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
This picture from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows Titan's atmosphere. The moon's atmosphere has a layer of haze high above Titan's surface. The haze layer, shown here in purple, can be seen along the edge of the moon.
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Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

The Atmosphere of Titan

The atmosphere of Titan is made mostly of nitrogen (80-90%), just like the Earth's atmosphere! Titan is the only other place in the solar system with an atmosphere made out of the same thing as the Earth's. Titan's atmosphere is very dense, and the air pressure at the surface is even higher than Earth's atmospheric pressure.

Titan also has some methane in its air. Sunlight breaks down the methane and forms other chemicals, too. Those chemicals create layers of haze or smog in Titan's atmosphere. We can't see through those smog layers, so the new pictures from the Huygens probe are our first good look at Titan's surface.

Titan is very cold (-178 C or -288 F). Methane, which is a gas on Earth, turns to liquid in many places on Titan. The Cassini spacecraft has spotted clouds of methane and ethane in Titan's atmosphere. The clouds are near Titan's poles. There is probably even methane and/or ethane rain and snow on Titan. This picture shows what the different parts of Titan's atmosphere might be like.


Last modified January 22, 2009 by Randy Russell.

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