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Titania is the largest of Uranus’ 27 moons. It was discovered by the astronomer Sir William Herschel along with Oberon – another one of Uranus’ moons – on January 11, 1787. Titania is the eighth largest moon in the Solar System; our own satellite is the fifth largest.
The satellite was named after Titania, a character from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Uranus is unique in that it is the only planet whose moons were not named after figures from Greek mythology. Instead, they were named after characters from a poem by Alexander Pope and from plays by William Shakespeare. The moon was not given its current name until 1852 by William Herschel’s son who suggested names for four of Uranus’ satellites. Until then, it was merely known as “the first satellite of Uranus.” In 1951, the satellites were numbered according to their distance from Uranus, so Titania became known as Uranus I; Herschel himself referred to it as Uranus III.
Titania is the second moon from Uranus at an average of 436,000 kilometers from its planet. It takes the moon about 8.7 days to orbit Uranus, and it is in a synchronous orbit with its planet. This means that it takes the same length of time for the moon to complete an orbit as it does for it to rotate once. Therefore, as the moon rotates, one side of the satellite constantly faces toward Uranus. This is very common with major moons in our Solar System, including Earth’s Moon.
Scientists believe the moon is about half water ice and half a dense material such as rock. There are fewer craters on Titania than are on Oberon, which tells scientists that Titania is actually the younger moon. Like on Oberon, the surface features on Titania have been named after characters in works by Shakespeare; all of the physical features are named after female characters. The largest crater on the satellite discovered so far is Gertrude, named after Hamlet’s mother, which is approximately 326 kilometers in diameter. This means its diameter is almost 20% of the diameter of the entire satellite. Other craters include Ursula, Jessica, Bona, and Imogen. Another major feature is Messina Chasma, a canyon on the moon, which is about 1,492 kilometers long.
The only probe to explore Titania was the Voyager 2, which took many pictures of the satellite in 1989. Unfortunately, the probe was not able to get enough photographs to geographically map about three-quarters of the moon.
Astronomy Cast has an episode on William Herschel you will find interesting.