Titan: Lounging by the Lake, Dancing in the Methane Rain

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Titan: Lounging by the Lake, Dancing in the Methane Rain

With all those lakes, Titan practically has England's Lake District beat as a vacation destination.

Image courtesy NASA/JPL/SSI

With its lakes, riverbeds and deltas, Saturn's largest moon appears familiar at first, but think twice before taking a dip in the hydrocarbon lakes or catching its methane raindrops on your tongue. Even the ice volcanoes (cryovolcanoes), like 5,000-foot- (1,500-meter-) high Sotra Patera, erupt with frozen water and ammonia (or maybe asphalt) instead of lava [sources: Lovett; NASA].

Still, Titan is the only known spot in the solar system (besides Earth) that features surface lakes, and for scenery you can hardly beat the Lake Michigan-sized Ontario Lacus nestled in its surrounding hills of water ice. Sit on a frigid beach (temperatures average minus 290 F (minus 179 C)) and enjoy the unusually tall, notably leisurely waves rolling in, a side effect of Titan's low gravity [sources: Ghafoor et al.; NASA].

Titan also stands out as the only known nonterrestrial landscape where rain falls on solid ground. Moreover, because of the moon's soupy atmosphere and low gravity, Titan's rains, like its waves, are unusually big and slow. Even the largest drops, which are 1.5 times the size of Earth's, drift down like snow. It doesn't rain often on Titan, but you can hedge your bets by hanging out at the poles which, as it happens, are also home to most of its lakefront property [sources: Grossman; Lorenz; Rincon].

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