Can You See Saturn from Titan?

As I continue my exploration of Titan, there’s something I was really hoping to see.

Ag10 Saturn in the Sky

Like Earth’s moon, Titan is tidally locked. That means as Titan orbits Saturn, the same side of the moon is always oriented toward the planet.

So in theory, all I have to do is make my way to the Saturn-facing hemisphere, look up in the sky, and behold the majesty of the Ringed Planet.

I’m sorry to report that today science has crushed my dreams. Titan is shrouded in a haze of aerosol particles called tholins. The tholin haze is not as dense as you might assume (which is why I thought I might be able to see Saturn).

But this diffuse haze extends from the surface all the way up to an altitude of approximately 300 km. For the sake of comparison, typical Earth clouds form at altitudes between 3 and 12 km, and the unofficial boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space is about 100 km up. So you could say that Titan’s haze is 200 km taller than Earth’s entire atmosphere (and Titan still has a few more atmospheric layers above the haze too).

Dense or not, there’s more than enough tholin haze overhead to block my view of Saturn. In fact, it’s enough that I can’t tell which way the sun is.

Ag10 Saturn Not in the Sky

Of course, Titan does experience seasonal changes which can affect the tholin haze. Maybe if I came back at a different time of year (Titan’s year equals almost 30 Earth years), I might be able to see something. But I doubt it.

5 Responses to Can You See Saturn from Titan?

  1. Hmmm. Unless there’s cryo-life crawling around somewhere, Titan doesn’t seem particularly appealing. You’d be in a slimy hazy orange winterland with a median temperature of -180 C.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember reading about this in science classes. Some of those planets and satellites have an atmosphere that would seem like they’re hard to see out of.

    Liked by 1 person

    • James Pailly says:

      For sure. Although I just learned that Titan’s atmosphere is almost transparent to a narrow range of infrared light. So maybe with the right kind of goggles, you could see Saturn.

      Like

  3. […] really left me flummoxed. I can’t see Saturn at all from the surface of Titan (and I was pretty upset about it too). I certainly can’t see the stars. I can’t even see the Sun through all the tholin haze […]

    Like

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