Saturn's Moon Titan Has Crazier Methane Rainstorms Than Previously Thought

Friday, 13 October 2017 - 7:40PM
Space
Solar System
Friday, 13 October 2017 - 7:40PM
Saturn's Moon Titan Has Crazier Methane Rainstorms Than Previously Thought
NASA
Titan is seen by many members of the stargazing community as a kind of Promised Land; a distant location that may be the first place beyond Earth and its moon that humans could conceivably colonize and live upon comfortably.

These dreams of a Titan colony might need to wait - turns out the local weather system may not be any more conducive to human life than the ridiculous atmosphere on Mars. A new study looking closely at Saturn's most interesting moon reveals liquid methane rains down on the planet periodically.

But where scientists had previously believed that this was a rare event that occurred once every thousand years, now it looks like Titan experiences a methane rainstorm approximately once every 30 years, which would certainly make life difficult for anyone who might want to live there.

It gets worse - apparently, Titan's liquid methane rain falls with tremendous speed and volume, with around a foot of rain falling in a single day. This rain is so thick and heavy that it quickly reshapes the ground it lands upon, with flash-erosion wearing out bedrock and washing away anything that breaks away.



So not only is Titan a pretty unpleasant place to be anyway thanks to all that methane in the atmosphere, the problem is so bad that flash-flooding and erosion could wipe out a colony in mere hours if anyone were foolhardy enough to try living on the moon.

This news comes to us from the late, great Cassini space probe, now disintegrated in the white-hot heat of Saturn's surface, which was previously buzzing around the ringed planet taking pictures of everything it came across.

Cassini didn't personally witness rainfall, as this event happens so infrequently that it didn't match up with the space probe's scheduled mission, but new evidence from aerial photos have allowed astronomers to make more accurate predictions about what goes on down on Titan's surface. Telltale signs include alluvian fans; marks in the landscape that suggest the presence of huge, powerful rainfall which also often occurs on planet Earth.

It seems, sadly, that there may not be anywhere in the solar system besides Earth that will comfortably support human life outside of a domed bubble. While plans for off-world colonies are still going ahead, it's unlikely we'll ever be able to terraform Mars or Titan to make for a more comfortable living environment, and as such we should probably focus on looking after the planet we've already got rather than trying to find a new home once we've fully ruined this one.

Alternatively, anyone who's really eager to experience the wonders of the universe is welcome to try heading off to Titan to find a new life on Saturn's biggest moon. If you're planning to go, though, just make sure you pack a really good umbrella.
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