Moons of our Solar System
Moons of our Solar System

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Moons of our Solar System

2.2 The surface of Titan

The Cassini–Huygens mission was the first (and so far the only) mission to show us what lies on Titan’s surface, below its smoggy atmosphere.

Previously, scientists had speculated that condensation in the atmosphere could lead to rainfall (of methane or ethane) and that the whole surface of Titan might be covered by a global methane–ethane ocean. The Cassini orbiter can image the surface in two ways: by looking specifically at narrow ranges of near-infrared wavelengths of light that pass through the smog with only a small amount of scattering, and by transmitting a radar beam to the surface and constructing an image from the echoes (radar imaging). Radar images show more detail. Huygens was a lander carried by the Cassini–Huygens mission that descended to the ground by parachute. It got a clear view of the surface from below the smog layer, but the view was of only a tiny portion of the globe.

Described image
Figure 12 A view of Titan’s surface, seen during the parachute descent, by the Huygens lander. The view across the foreground is about 50 km wide

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus