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Titan a 'Flammable' Moon Covered in Liquid Gas
Al-Rueters via Yapoo ^ | 1/21/05 | Ben Berkowitz

Posted on 01/21/2005 7:17:19 AM PST by Dallas59

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Saturn's moon Titan is covered by "dirty" ice ridges and seas of liquid natural gas, a team of scientists said on Friday after a week of research into data from the space probe Huygens.

"We've got a flammable world," said Toby Owen, an atmospheric scientist, at a news conference from European Space Agency offices in Paris monitored on NASA (news - web sites) TV.

After a seven-year piggyback trip from Earth on board the Saturn probe Cassini, the European-designed Huygens separated in December and fell toward Titan, entering the moon's atmosphere last Friday.

The probe, part of a $3 billion joint mission involving NASA and the European and Italian space agencies, sent back readings on the moon's atmosphere, composition and landscape.

Slowed by parachutes, Huygens took more than two hours to float to the icy surface, where it defied expectations of a quick death and continued to transmit for hours.

That surface, which scientists have said was the consistency of wet sand or even creme brulee, features ice rocks, channels, and abundant indications of liquid from rain.

"There's lots of evidence of fluid flow," said Marty Tomasko, the principal investigator for Huygens' on-board imaging instruments. While it does not rain every day on Titan, Tomasko and colleagues speculated there must be some sort of regular precipitation on the surface.

The methane can exist in liquid form on Titan's surface because it is so cold, -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 degrees Celsius). Methane is also a key component in Titan's atmosphere, along with nitrogen. But as opposed to the Earth, the atmosphere of Titan lacks oxygen, which is essential to fire.

"There's no source of oxygen available, which is a good thing or Titan would have exploded a long time ago," Owen said.

YEARS OF STUDY

Though the mission teams collected just a few hours' worth of data, they expect to spend years analyzing it for clues as to how Titan formed, how it works and what it can say about the Earth's own development.

Titan is larger than the planet Mercury and, because of its atmosphere, a popular setting for science-fiction tales of human colonization and exploration.

And while manned missions are not necessarily on the horizon, researchers are already talking about what they might do next with Titan, if they had enough money to launch a mission that could probe the solid surface more actively.

"This is highly possible, we can now dream seriously of sending rovers to Titan," said Jean-Pierre Lebreton, the Huygens mission manager for the ESA.

Before that, though, the researchers -- some of whom have worked on the project for the better part of two decades -- will probably catch up on their rest.

"Some of the scientists did not sleep for days and nights, so we are a bit tired I must say," Lebreton said.

The Cassini-Huygens mission to study Saturn's rings and moons was launched in 1997 and is named after two 17th-century European astronomers: Christiaan Huygens, who discovered Saturn's rings and Titan, and Jean-Dominique Cassini, who discovered the planet's other four major moons.



TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: cassini; esa; gas; huygens; moon; nasa; saturn; space; titan; xplanets
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Must stink up in there...
1 posted on 01/21/2005 7:17:20 AM PST by Dallas59
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To: Dallas59

Sounds like an ideal future refueling point for extrasolar exploration.


2 posted on 01/21/2005 7:18:59 AM PST by thoughtomator (Meet the new Abbas, same as the old Abbas)
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To: Dallas59
Saturn's moon Titan is covered by "dirty" ice ridges and seas of liquid natural gas

If it's liquid, how is it gas?

3 posted on 01/21/2005 7:19:19 AM PST by atomicpossum (I am the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.)
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To: Dallas59

"There's no source of oxygen available, which is a good thing or Titan would have exploded a long time ago," Owen said.

Chalk off another place people will never go.


4 posted on 01/21/2005 7:20:01 AM PST by BenLurkin (Big government is still a big problem.)
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To: thoughtomator

5 posted on 01/21/2005 7:21:09 AM PST by Dallas59 (Bush said the "F" word 27 times January 20th, 2005!)
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To: Dallas59

As has been pointed out in previous threads, the bad odor of natural gas is artificial; it's mercaptan that is deliberately added to it so leaks are quickly smelled.

Actually remember seeing this cable documentary about a natural-gas heated school that blew up in Texas and killed a lot of kids, the smell was added after that.

And the smell in farts isn't from methane either..it's mostly hydrogen sulfide.


6 posted on 01/21/2005 7:21:21 AM PST by Strategerist
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To: atomicpossum

There are LNG terminals all over the world. "Liquid Natural Gas."


7 posted on 01/21/2005 7:21:58 AM PST by Strategerist
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To: Strategerist

bttt


8 posted on 01/21/2005 7:22:47 AM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: Strategerist

Wished it was closer to Earth. Might be a sort of a "gold rush".


9 posted on 01/21/2005 7:23:27 AM PST by Dallas59 (Bush said the "F" word 27 times January 20th, 2005!)
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To: Dallas59
That surface, which scientists have said was the consistency of wet sand or even creme brulee

Sounds like they are describing Michael Moore's stomach...

10 posted on 01/21/2005 7:24:32 AM PST by frog_jerk_2004
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To: Strategerist
There are LNG terminals all over the world. "Liquid Natural Gas."

Is that like 'jumbo shrimp,' then?

11 posted on 01/21/2005 7:25:06 AM PST by atomicpossum (I am the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.)
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To: atomicpossum
If it's liquid, how is it gas?

"Natural gas" is a term covering methane, ethane and other compounds, which are most often (on Earth, anyway) found is gas form.

This is what happens when a fashion writer covers a tech story.

12 posted on 01/21/2005 7:25:37 AM PST by Izzy Dunne (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line.)
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To: Dallas59

Is that an actual picture?


13 posted on 01/21/2005 7:26:14 AM PST by frog_jerk_2004
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To: Dallas59
Titan a 'Flammable' Moon Covered in Liquid Gas

Probably not an ideal venue for a "Palestinian" state then.

14 posted on 01/21/2005 7:27:04 AM PST by montag813
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To: Dallas59

So.... If we reshape the orbit of an ice comet... providing the "O", and torch off a 1 megaton nuke, how long would Titan burn?


15 posted on 01/21/2005 7:27:10 AM PST by StoneGiant
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To: Dallas59
Earth Natural Gas Reserves


16 posted on 01/21/2005 7:27:16 AM PST by Dallas59 (Bush said the "F" word 27 times January 20th, 2005!)
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To: frog_jerk_2004

That's an artist's conception, no doubt.


17 posted on 01/21/2005 7:27:51 AM PST by Strategerist
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To: atomicpossum
Is that like 'jumbo shrimp,' then?

Heh; to a degree I guess.

18 posted on 01/21/2005 7:28:23 AM PST by Strategerist
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To: Dallas59
"Saturn's moon Titan is covered by "dirty" ice ridges and seas of liquid natural gas"

Should make for an interseting liftoff.

19 posted on 01/21/2005 7:28:24 AM PST by robertpaulsen
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To: atomicpossum

Same as LNG. Put that way by lowered temps for easier transportation. Thaw it, gas again.


20 posted on 01/21/2005 7:28:52 AM PST by Safetgiver (Mud slung is ground lost.)
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To: frog_jerk_2004

Yes, that is an actual picture. It's just not a photograph.


21 posted on 01/21/2005 7:29:31 AM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets (Deadcheck the embeds first.)
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To: atomicpossum

The natural gas liquifys when cooled. Not sure at what temperature though.


22 posted on 01/21/2005 7:29:43 AM PST by o_zarkman44
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To: Safetgiver
What a great resource...To bad the UN exists.
23 posted on 01/21/2005 7:29:57 AM PST by Dallas59 (Bush said the "F" word 27 times January 20th, 2005!)
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To: Dallas59

I want the contract for No Smoking signs.


24 posted on 01/21/2005 7:30:01 AM PST by Tijeras_Slim
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets
Yes, that is an actual picture. It's just not a photograph.

If it's an actual picture it has nothing to do with Titan.

25 posted on 01/21/2005 7:32:05 AM PST by Strategerist
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To: Dallas59
>"We've got a flammable world," said Toby Owen, an atmospheric scientist

Is this possible?!
Here, in the inner system
the Earth's atmosphere

is constantly hit
by meteors that burn up
at various heights.

Saturn is a deep
gravity well not too far
from the asteroids

which also get churned
by Jupiter's gravity . . .
My initial thought

is there must be lots
of junk always impacting
Titan's atmosphere.

(And, of course, it must
have been happening non-stop
for a long, long time . . .)

How could flammable
materials still be there
in large quantities?!

26 posted on 01/21/2005 7:34:04 AM PST by theFIRMbss
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To: Safetgiver

I think it is actually the increased pressure in the tanks which liquifies it. The coolness of the tanks and from when you release it is due to the energy absorbed due to the "evaporation" of the liquid to gas form.


27 posted on 01/21/2005 7:34:38 AM PST by rmichaelj
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To: theFIRMbss
How could flammable materials still be there in large quantities?!

Did you miss the "no oxygen" part?

28 posted on 01/21/2005 7:34:56 AM PST by Strategerist
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To: Dallas59
Hera: "Zeus, honey, you're putting too much lighter fluid on those coals. Remember what happened last time!"

Zeus: "Shut up woman!"

29 posted on 01/21/2005 7:35:27 AM PST by mrsmith
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To: theFIRMbss

No oxygen. It can't burn.


30 posted on 01/21/2005 7:36:28 AM PST by Mr. Jeeves
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To: StoneGiant

"So.... If we reshape the orbit of an ice comet... providing the "O", and torch off a 1 megaton nuke, how long would Titan burn? "

Until there was no more methane or oxygen, of course :p

Although, wouldn't the impact by an ice comet provide the friction and heat required to ignite it?


31 posted on 01/21/2005 7:36:39 AM PST by MacDorcha
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To: RadioAstronomer; Physicist
I meant to ping you
in my post #26 for
your technical thoughts . . .
32 posted on 01/21/2005 7:36:54 AM PST by theFIRMbss
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To: Dallas59
Cheese flambe'

33 posted on 01/21/2005 7:37:34 AM PST by evets (God bless president George W. Bush)
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To: StoneGiant
So.... If we reshape the orbit of an ice comet... providing the "O"

I think the "O" you are referring to is in the H20. Unfortunately H2O is a combustion product of hydrocarbons like natural gas. It is the ashy remains of methane, if you will. Wouldn't burn any further. There would be no molecular oxygen on Earth if not for photosynthesis, which constantly separates chemically bound oxygen. In geological terms all the oxygen on Earth would be consumed very quickly if it were not constantly renewed. The article is provocative in that reinforces the abiotic origins of hydrocarbons. There may be vast reserves of natural gas deep within the Earth, waiting to be discovered.

34 posted on 01/21/2005 7:37:59 AM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets (Deadcheck the embeds first.)
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To: MacDorcha

Even an Ice comet has it's oxygen locked up in water.

Even with an impact I don't think you're going to separate that molecule.


35 posted on 01/21/2005 7:38:03 AM PST by Strategerist
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To: Mr. Jeeves

I think part of the point was that Oxygen would be introduced into it (as asteroids would contain water and Oxygen.)


36 posted on 01/21/2005 7:38:13 AM PST by MacDorcha
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To: MacDorcha
Yes, but it's already reacted oxygen. It's got no reason to burn again.
37 posted on 01/21/2005 7:41:04 AM PST by Sloth (Al Franken is a racist.)
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To: Safetgiver
(You know I do understand what the author is saying, right? I'm just being pedantic...)
38 posted on 01/21/2005 7:41:14 AM PST by atomicpossum (I am the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.)
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To: Strategerist

hmmm... no liquid oxygen or free radicals? I assumed ice asteroids contained a little of most life-essential molecules. Mayhaps I'm wrong though. It's happend before.


39 posted on 01/21/2005 7:42:31 AM PST by MacDorcha
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To: Strategerist; Mr. Jeeves; RadioAstronomer; Physicist
>"There's no source of oxygen available, which is a good thing or Titan would have exploded a long time ago," Owen said.

[sighs] Yes, in classic
Friday fashion, my brain stuck
at the post's top, and

I went off half-baked
without reading the whole thing.
Sorry! [sighs again]

40 posted on 01/21/2005 7:43:33 AM PST by theFIRMbss
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To: MacDorcha

The problem with oxygen as Lonesome noted is that it's very rare in the Universe to have free oxygen just floating around. When oxygen gets into a molecule it's stuck in there pretty good. Asteroids don't have free oxygen floating around.

It took blue-green algae and photosynthesis to give earth the free oxygen we currently have.


41 posted on 01/21/2005 7:45:27 AM PST by Strategerist
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To: Strategerist
And the smell in farts isn't from methane either..it's mostly hydrogen sulfide.

I did a search on hydrogen sulfide and this is what I always wanted to know, but never had the nerve to try!

grandma_fish (g_fish@email.com) -- 1.13.2003
"Actually, in all actuality, I have found that lighting farts is a good way to clean out your bunghole of all those unwanted hairs. The hairs in your butt only cause dingleberry's and it makes it hard to wipe your booty after shitting, so lighting your farts will burn those hairs away. It's like a free bikini wax or something."

More testimonials at:
http://www.poopreport.com/Fun/Content/Lighting/lighting.html

42 posted on 01/21/2005 7:46:07 AM PST by bjs1779
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To: Strategerist
I have no ideer whether or not it has anything to do with Titan, but it is an actual pitcher.
43 posted on 01/21/2005 7:46:09 AM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets (Deadcheck the embeds first.)
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To: atomicpossum

"If it's liquid, how is it gas?"

Just like propane (LPG or Liquified Petroleum Gas). Store it under intense pressure and it liquifies until released to normal atmosphere.


44 posted on 01/21/2005 7:46:35 AM PST by Frank L
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To: Dallas59

Al-Reuters via Yapoo is the best comment. Perfect characterizations.


45 posted on 01/21/2005 7:46:47 AM PST by dhuffman@awod.com (The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.)
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To: atomicpossum

Rumor over at DU is Bush will grant Halliburton the rights to build a pipeline from Titan to Texas!!! ;-)


46 posted on 01/21/2005 7:47:23 AM PST by Jambe
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To: MacDorcha

Taking into account that I almost flunked Chem in college, my assumption is that the nuke would vaporize the water in the comet, providing "free" oxygen. If, after the intial flash of the nuke, there was excess oxygen gas, then would it be possible to ignite the methane?

Oh, and for the "peaceful" people on this board who don't like the thought of using nukes, perhaps we could use a gigantic Zippo lighter instead....


47 posted on 01/21/2005 7:47:42 AM PST by StoneGiant
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To: thoughtomator

"Sounds like an ideal future refueling point for extrasolar exploration."

Exactly what I thought.

I wonder how much would be consumed, however, lifting off from Titan.

Some sort of Lando-Calrisian-Cloud-City-Refining might be the practical answer, believe it or not.


48 posted on 01/21/2005 7:48:26 AM PST by MeanWestTexan
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To: Dallas59
Did someone say natural gas, here's one of MA's source of natural gas.



49 posted on 01/21/2005 7:48:58 AM PST by r5boston
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To: theFIRMbss

In that world, oxygen would be the fuel. You can send oxygen to a bunson burner, for example, in a methane atmosphere and get what is, by all appearances, an ordinary flame.


50 posted on 01/21/2005 7:49:32 AM PST by lafroste (gravity is not a force, dangit)
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