Our Earth has only one moon, Mars has to make do with two, and Venus and Mercury have no moons at all. But the orbit around Saturn is much busier. In May 2023, at least 62 new moons were discovered near the planet. The gas giant is now the official record holder in our solar system. Jupiter, which has “only” eighty, comes in second place.
According to NASA, there are at least 146 moons orbiting Saturn. There is a good chance that this number will rise even more in the coming years, because scientists are conducting extensive research on Saturn’s moons. Some are no larger than a football field, while the moon Titan is larger than the planet Mercury.
Is life possible on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon?
It is Saturn’s large moons that scientists mainly focus on. NASA’s Dragonfly mission will depart for Titan in 2027 to search for core elements and signs of life. Why are we looking for alien life on this moon and not on Saturn itself? On the sixth planet in our solar system, temperatures and conditions are so extreme that life is almost certainly excluded.
Titan is also outside what we call the solar system’s habitable zone. This is the orbit around the Sun where temperatures are just right for liquid water. So it is neither so warm that the rivers evaporate, nor so cold that they freeze. However, previous research by the Cassini space probe has shown that Titan has fluids in the form of rivers, lakes and seas. However, it is not water flowing here as on Earth, but liquid methane.
Cassini also found evidence that there may be an ocean of liquid water beneath Titan’s surface. Just like on another moon of Saturn: Enceladus. Then there’s the crazy moon Iapetus, which may have the strangest mountain range in the entire solar system.
Scientists are not only busy studying Saturn’s hundred-plus moons. Many questions remain unanswered regarding the origin of Saturn’s rings.
Willick Van Doorn studied journalism, traveled the world for a while, and eventually ended up in the editorial offices of Quest, National Geographic, and Runner’s World across the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. She is interested in the world, prefers to travel every month and always takes her running shoes with her.
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