Titania is one of Uranus’s moons. It was discovered in 1787 by the German-born British astronomer William Herschel.
Mass: 3.52 x 1021 kg
Composition: Water-ice, rock and organic compounds
Orbit: 4.36 x 105 m from Uranus
Titania is the biggest of Uranus’s moons and the eighth-biggest in the whole Solar System. Uranus has five major satellites and 22 minor ones. The major five moons were discovered by observations from Earth, 11 were revealed by the Voyager 2 spacecraft and the rest by sensitive charge-coupled-device (CCD) detectors on Earth.
The names of all of Uranus’s moons come from characters from Shakespeare or Alexander Pope. Titania is the Queen of the Fairies in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. William Herschel’s son suggested these names in 1852.
The composition of Titania seems to be equal proportions of water-ice and non-ice components. The latter comprise rock together with organic compounds such as clathrate hydrates and methane. Clathrate hydrates are molecules of methane that are trapped within water molecules and are also called methane hydrates or gas hydrates. Titania may have a core of rock enveloped by an ice mantle. The core and mantle may be separated by a level of water some 50 km in thickness.
The surface of the moon is red with blue patches. It is heavily cratered and the largest crater, Gertrude, has a diameter of 360 km. There are displays of prominent tectonic landforms such as canyons, ridges, lineaments and scarps. Extensional forces within the moon’s surfaces could have created long canyon systems on the surface. One of the longest canyons, Messina Chasmata, extends over 1,500 km. It is named after the town of Messina in Sicily that is mentioned in Shakespeare’s play, “Much Ado About Nothing”.
The canyons can be 50 to 100 km wide. Ridges, which are known as rupes in planetary nomenclature, can be several hundred kilometres in length. They can attain heights of 8 km.
Impact meteorites and cryovolcanism – the eruption of a viscous mixture of water-ice and ammonia – also shaped the surface features. Titania may possess a thin atmosphere of carbon dioxide. Astronomers believe that it has lost large amounts of carbon dioxide over its lifetime of 4.6 billion Earth years.
Titania orbits synchronously around Uranus synchronously over an orbital period of 8.7 Earth days. This coincides with the rotational period of the moon on its own axis. The same hemisphere of Titania always faces Uranus. Along with Uranus and its other satellites, Titania takes 84 Earth years to orbit the sun.
The Voyager 2 spacecraft mission in 1986 photographed Uranus and its moons. Its closest approach to the moon was at a distance of 368,000 km and the photographs had a resolution of 13 km. There have been no other missions to Uranus and its moons since that time.