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Saturn's largest moon has dramatic weather, geological activity (Titan)
ap on Monterey Herald ^ | 11/30/05 | Angela Doland - ap

Posted on 11/30/2005 10:08:05 AM PST by NormsRevenge

PARIS - Saturn's planet-size moon Titan has dramatic weather, with freezing temperatures, carbon- and nitrogen-rich clouds and possibly lightning, scientists said Wednesday, describing a world that may have looked like Earth before life developed.

The European Space Agency's probe landed on Titan in January, uncovering some mysteries of the methane-rich globe - the only moon in the solar system known to have a thick atmosphere. Scientists presented detailed results of months of study in the journal Nature and at a news conference in Paris.

Titan has long intrigued researchers because it is surrounded by a thick blanket of nitrogen and methane. Until recently, scientists believed the most likely explanation for the methane was the presence of a methane-rich sea of hydrocarbons.

The Huygens probe and its mother ship, Cassini, have offered evidence against that theory. The $3.3 billion Cassini-Huygens mission to explore Saturn and its moons was launched in 1997 from Cape Canaveral, a joint effort involving NASA, ESA and the Italian space agency.

Cassini is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Titan's clouds are made from molecules that include carbon and nitrogen - compounds generated in photochemical smog and circulated by rain and the atmosphere, the researchers reported in Nature.

They said there was no reason to believe Titan's methane is a product of biological activity.

Yet more methane is appearing constantly and may burst from ice volcanos or fall as rain, researchers said, describing riverbed and drainage channels spotted during the craft's descent Jan. 14.

Scientists described the moon's freezing temperatures: 290 degrees below zero on the surface. The atmosphere has distinct layers and may offer evidence of lightning.

Titan's smoggy atmosphere may be similar to that of the primordial Earth, and scientists believe that studying it could provide clues to how life began.

The first results from the Huygens probe were released in January: Black-and-white photos showed a rugged terrain of ridges, peaks, vein-like channels and apparently dry lakebeds on the moon 740 million miles away.

ON THE NET

European Space Agency: http://www.esa.int


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: activity; cassini; dramatic; geological; huygens; largestmoon; saturn; titan; weather

30 November 2005

Images from the DISR Side-Looking Imager and from the Medium Resolution Imager, acquired after landing, were merged to produce this image. The horizon’s position implies a pitch of the DISR, nose-upward, by 1-2° with no measurable roll. ‘Stones’ in the foreground are 10-15 cm in size, presumably made of water ice, and these lie on a darker, finer-grained substrate.

A region with a relatively low number of rocks lies between clusters of rocks in the foreground and the background and matches the general orientation of channel-like features in the panorama view from 1.2 km (3rd image in article). The scene evokes the possibility of a dry lakebed.

Credits: ESA/NASA/University of Arizona


1 posted on 11/30/2005 10:08:06 AM PST by NormsRevenge
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To: NormsRevenge

More article/images


http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Results_from_Mars_Express_and_Huygens/SEM23TULWFE_1.html


2 posted on 11/30/2005 10:08:54 AM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... Monthly Donor spoken Here. Go to ... https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: NormsRevenge
Saturn's largest moon has dramatic weather, geological activity (Titan)

Well, at least we'll be able to make small talk with the aliens when we meet. lol

3 posted on 11/30/2005 10:09:06 AM PST by Bluegrass Conservative
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To: NormsRevenge
Images from the DISR Side-Looking Imager and from the Medium Resolution Imager, acquired after landing, were merged to produce this image.

What a fantastic thing to ponder. We are indeed living in marvelous times. Thanks for the post!

4 posted on 11/30/2005 10:13:50 AM PST by COBOL2Java (The Katrina Media never gets anything right, so why should I believe them?)
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To: NormsRevenge

Maybe we could get all the leftists and French (but I'm being redundant) to move there?


5 posted on 11/30/2005 10:14:31 AM PST by clee1 (We use 43 muscles to frown, 17 to smile, and 2 to pull a trigger. I'm lazy and I'm tired of smiling.)
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To: NormsRevenge
They said there was no reason to believe Titan's methane is a product of biological activity.

Well, that would rule out my 3-alarm chili.

(sorry, couldn't resist) :0)

6 posted on 11/30/2005 10:14:59 AM PST by COBOL2Java (The Katrina Media never gets anything right, so why should I believe them?)
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To: NormsRevenge

"The scene evokes the possibility of a dry lakebed."


Actually, in the photo, it looks like the rocks are emersed in about 1" of liquid water, with several inches in the foreground. You can even see ripples in the "water." Of course, they don't have liquid water on Titan. Maybe liquid methane, or maybe just the poor graphics.


7 posted on 11/30/2005 10:16:36 AM PST by Brilliant
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To: clee1

Great info ... I love science, that is real science ... I imagine Bush will be somehow blamed for this too :)


8 posted on 11/30/2005 10:16:53 AM PST by George - the Other
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To: Bluegrass Conservative

Me: Mornin Zxaxnor.

Zxaxnor: Mornin Creek.

Me: beautiful day in'it?

Zxaxnor: Yep, only supposed to get up around -298 today.

Me: Sounds like a great day for you, the missus and 10 or 15 thousand of the larva to hit the beach down to methane lake.


9 posted on 11/30/2005 10:17:33 AM PST by cripplecreek (Never a minigun handy when you need one.)
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To: NormsRevenge

10 posted on 11/30/2005 10:18:07 AM PST by HOTTIEBOY (Maybe in your house. Not in mine.)
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To: George - the Other

Yeah, of course Bush is to blame. He's even affected the weather patterns on Titan.


11 posted on 11/30/2005 10:20:15 AM PST by Brilliant
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To: NormsRevenge

12 posted on 11/30/2005 10:22:27 AM PST by HOTTIEBOY (Maybe in your house. Not in mine.)
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To: HOTTIEBOY

Thanks!


13 posted on 11/30/2005 10:23:17 AM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... Monthly Donor spoken Here. Go to ... https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: NormsRevenge

I don't mean to complain, but if you're going to bother sending a camera 800,000,000 miles from earth, couldn't you send a camera that takes really excellent color photographs?


14 posted on 11/30/2005 10:28:32 AM PST by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: NormsRevenge

Cool! Bump!


15 posted on 11/30/2005 10:28:32 AM PST by DoctorMichael (The Fourth-Estate is a Fifth-Column!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
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To: NormsRevenge

Interesting implications vis a vis possible origins of hydrocarbons here on Earth.


16 posted on 11/30/2005 10:33:49 AM PST by GOP_1900AD (Stomping on "PC," destroying the Left, and smoking out faux "conservatives" - Take Back The GOP!)
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To: dead

The Huygens probe and its mother ship, Cassini are equipped with about a dozen optical cameras, not to mention various filtered radio cameras. The optical camera on Cassini is capable of 12,000,000pix resolution. 12 million.


17 posted on 11/30/2005 10:34:21 AM PST by HOTTIEBOY (Maybe in your house. Not in mine.)
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To: NormsRevenge
Bush's fault.
18 posted on 11/30/2005 10:35:37 AM PST by Vaquero ("An armed society is a polite society" R. A. Heinlein)
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To: Brilliant

Looks more like sort of gravel to me. And note the apparent wind scouring of this possible sediment around the one "rock." If indeed it's gravel and not sand, that is one heck of a wind that made such scouring.


19 posted on 11/30/2005 10:36:27 AM PST by GOP_1900AD (Stomping on "PC," destroying the Left, and smoking out faux "conservatives" - Take Back The GOP!)
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To: HOTTIEBOY
The optical camera on Cassini is capable of 12,000,000pix resolution. 12 million.

I wasn’t referring to the Cassini craft. That has produced stunning images.

I was wondering why we only get Zapruderish images from the surface of Titan:


20 posted on 11/30/2005 10:40:30 AM PST by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: GOP_1900AD

The rocks are rounded. It seems unlikely to me that with such extreme weather, there is no liquid.


21 posted on 11/30/2005 10:41:22 AM PST by Brilliant
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To: dead

"Scientists described the moon's freezing temperatures: 290 degrees below zero on the surface."


22 posted on 11/30/2005 10:41:41 AM PST by HOTTIEBOY (Maybe in your house. Not in mine.)
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To: NormsRevenge
Methane, meet Lightning.

Without free oxygen, all you get are some life precursors: tar, black sticky stuff.

23 posted on 11/30/2005 10:44:40 AM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the law of the excluded middle)
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To: HOTTIEBOY

Well then, I would suggest inventing a high-quality low temperature camera before making the 800,000,000 trip.


24 posted on 11/30/2005 10:45:36 AM PST by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: GOP_1900AD

Maybe, maybe not. I don't know what the atmospheric density is on the surface, but with temps that low it could be very high. If the atmospheric density is higher than Earths, heavy scouring could take place with a much smaller amount of wind than you would expect on Earth.


25 posted on 11/30/2005 10:48:37 AM PST by Arthalion
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To: RightWhale
correct me if I'm wrong, but if there was oxygen wouldn't Titan's atmosphere ignite if lightning did occur?

Lord, that would be some fire....
26 posted on 11/30/2005 10:51:15 AM PST by PigRigger (Send donations to http://www.AdoptAPlatoon.org)
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To: Brilliant

The rounding of the rocks may be caused by spalling because of temperature extremes. Erosion may or may not be a factor.

Also, keep in mind that Saturns rings may be the result of a planetary breakup, and that there's a LOT of loose rock flying around in that system. This "gravel" may not be terrestrial to the moon at all, and could have been rounded by heating as they entered the atmosphere.


27 posted on 11/30/2005 10:52:35 AM PST by Arthalion
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To: Arthalion

This moon is a whole lot more interesting to me than Mars. It's a shame they did not have a more complex lander.


28 posted on 11/30/2005 10:56:23 AM PST by Brilliant
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To: HOTTIEBOY

Nice photo.


29 posted on 11/30/2005 10:57:05 AM PST by Brilliant
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To: dead

Looks like the camera is looking thru a keyhole.


30 posted on 11/30/2005 10:58:00 AM PST by Brilliant
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To: PigRigger

Not neccesarily. It could cause some fierce reactions, but the low temperature of the atmosphere is going to limit the spread of any open flame by quickly robbing it of energy. I just looked it up, and Titan has an atmosphere 60% denser than the one on Earth. That dense atmosphere would also slow the spread of any flame, allowing the fire to burn out all of its own oxygen...it would effectively self-extinguish.

Of course, this assumes that the methane density is high enough to maintain a sustained burn anyway. I haven't found anything on the actual relative densities of the gasses sampled by the probe, so I'm not sure if there's even enough fuel there to ignite.


31 posted on 11/30/2005 10:58:17 AM PST by Arthalion
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To: PigRigger

That's why they compare Titan to early earth: before free oxygen. First fix all the combustables out of the air, methane, etc., then start liberating oxygen. Do it the other way and you'll end up with a nice fireworks show and a burnt-out cinder.


32 posted on 11/30/2005 10:59:13 AM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the law of the excluded middle)
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To: RightWhale

Wouldn't that be a trip if Titan were made of oil?


33 posted on 11/30/2005 10:59:57 AM PST by Brilliant
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To: Brilliant; GOP_1900AD

Liquid Methane rain. What a bit o' weirdness!


34 posted on 11/30/2005 11:04:09 AM PST by Frank_Discussion (May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather!)
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To: Brilliant

It is. If we can get to the point of moving significant quantities of materials among the various planets and moons, there are plenty of resources to make it possible to develop the moon, for starters, and Mars, and maybe later on, Venus.


35 posted on 11/30/2005 11:04:30 AM PST by RightWhale (Repeal the law of the excluded middle)
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To: Arthalion

Good point.


36 posted on 11/30/2005 11:06:37 AM PST by GOP_1900AD (Stomping on "PC," destroying the Left, and smoking out faux "conservatives" - Take Back The GOP!)
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To: Frank_Discussion

Not a nice place!


37 posted on 11/30/2005 11:07:17 AM PST by GOP_1900AD (Stomping on "PC," destroying the Left, and smoking out faux "conservatives" - Take Back The GOP!)
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To: Arthalion

Interesting thoughts. Indeed, there seems to be some similarity between what we think the the ring material looks like and this apparent gravel.


38 posted on 11/30/2005 11:08:48 AM PST by GOP_1900AD (Stomping on "PC," destroying the Left, and smoking out faux "conservatives" - Take Back The GOP!)
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To: NormsRevenge
Saturn's largest moon has dramatic weather, geological activity

I blame Bush...

39 posted on 11/30/2005 11:14:52 AM PST by talleyman (Who would Osamma vote for?)
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To: Arthalion
The atmospheric pressure near the surface is about 1.6 bars, That is about 60% more than earth. Even mild winds in any pressure will cause scouring if the winds persist for 3 billion years.
The temperature is fairly high normal satellite terms. It gets more heat from the radiation coming from Saturn than it does the Sun.
40 posted on 11/30/2005 11:23:35 AM PST by HOTTIEBOY (Maybe in your house. Not in mine.)
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