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Published on December 22nd, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie4
Titania: Uranus’s Largest Secretive Moon
Uranus’s Moon Titania
A potential liquid ocean, seasons that last 42 years and a possible tentative atmosphere are just some of the reasons why Uranus’s moon Titania is worthy of our attention.
Uranus’s moon Titania orbits Uranus, within its magnetosphere, at a distance of 435,000 kilometres (271,000 miles), taking just under eight days and 17 hours to complete one trip around the Icy Giant.
Named after the queen of the fairies in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at 1,578 kilometres (986 miles) in width, Titania is the largest of Uranus’s moons.
Core And Composition
Given the fact that scientists know how dense it is, it is believed that Uranus’s moon Titania is composed of nearly equal measures of rock and ice. The core is thought to be comprised of rock, with a potential boundary layer of liquid water separating the core from the mantle.
The mantle consists of ice. The surface is quite dark and red in appearance with the sites of newer impacts, being blue in colour.
The fact that Uranus’s moon Titania’s orbit resides wholly inside Uranus’s magnetosphere has meant that the satellite has been subjected to plasma. Some scientists maintain that this caused the darkening of its hemisphere.
Colossal Canyons And Capacious Craters
The surface of Uranus’s moon Titania is pock-marked by large craters resulting from heavy impacts with huge objects. Some of the larger craters are over 300 kilometres (180 miles) in width. At 326 kilometres (203 miles) across, Gertrude is the largest crater to have been found on the surface of the moon.
Nonetheless, Uranus’s moon Titania is no where near as cratered as one might expect. This suggests that the satellite underwent some sort of resurfacing.
Other surface features include colossal canyons which are thought to have been created by expansion. The largest canyon, Messina Chasma, is 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) long travelling virtually from the equator to the south pole.
All throughout the moon’s surface a serious of massive faults, known as scarps, reside. Surface features on Uranus’s moon Titania are named after characters from Shakespeare’s works.
A Liquid Ocean?
As mentioned previously, scientists believe that Uranus’s moon Titania may harbour a layer of liquid water separating the mantle from the core. It has been speculated that this layer may be an ocean of water kept unfrozen by the presence of ammonia. This ocean could be anything up to 50 kilometres in thickness.
Atmosphere? To Have Or Not To Have?
We still don’t know how the Uranus’s moon Titania came to have carbon dioxide present in its atmosphere. Several hypotheses have emerged seeking to explain its origin. One idea is that either organic matter or carbonates is producing carbon dioxide through the aid of ultraviolet radiation being emitted from the Sun.
Scientists highlight the potential of ancient carbon dioxide trapped deep within its interior that is slowly making its way to the surface. This leaking could have been made possible through geological activity at some point in Uranus’s Titania’s past.
Others using infrared spectroscopy to determine what elements and compounds reside on the surface of Uranus’s moon Titania found that the moon may have what is called a tentative atmosphere. The spectroscopy revealed the presence of both liquid water and carbon dioxide. If there is an atmosphere on Titania it is billions of times less dense than our own.
Regardless of how the carbon dioxide got there, Titania is believed to have originally had much larger quantities of the compound than it has now.
Uranus’s Moon Titania A Hot Formation
Like many of the moons in the Solar System, Titania is thought to have been born from an accretion disc of particles that orbited Uranus. Gradually, over a long period of time, the particles coalesced to form larger and larger bodies until eventually satellites such as Uranus’s moon Titania were formed.
It is thought that Uranus’s moon Titania would have taken several thousand years to reach its size. During that time the outer layer of the moon would have been heated due to the friction generated by the impacts caused by coalescence. However, after the satellite was formed the outer layer would have cooled and a new heating process would have started deep within the moon’s core.
The decay of radioactive elements in the core would have heated Uranus’s moon Titania causing its interior to expand. Eventually cracks and fault lines would have occurred on its surface as a result of this expansion and the subsequent contraction when it cooled down. This would have caused the canyon and scarp features that are present on Titania’s surface.
Scientists maintain that this heating phase of the interior would have only lasted roughly 200 million years or so. Nevertheless, this time would have been more than enough to separate the ice from the rock and so the moon became differentiated.
Titania And Tomorrow
Who knows what the future will bring for mankind and Uranus’s moon Titania. As of yet very little is known about the moon. Up to 2011 only 40 per cent of the satellite’s surface had been mapped. We still don’t know whether it has a tentative atmosphere or not. Neither do we know if it contains a liquid ocean deep within its surface. Who knows what other secrets it harbours? Perhaps we will eventually find out.
Highly Recommended Reading
Check out Yellow Magpie’s Uranus: The Coldest Ice Giant for more insight into the largest planet in the Solar System.
You may also like to take a gander at The Solar System And Beyond: A Guide To The Cosmos.
Cosmos is a highly recommended book. It contains large, full-page pictures of the asteroids and writing on the subject by the highly competent author, Giles Sparrow.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Cosmos from here.
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain: Cosmos here.
For Germany: Cosmos.
For France: Cosmos.