Skip to comments.Cassini finds evidence of giant hydrocarbon lakes on moon Titan
Posted on 07/24/2006 6:56:41 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
Scientists said Monday they have found the first widespread evidence of giant hydrocarbon lakes on the surface of Saturn's planet-size moon Titan.
The cluster of hydrocarbon lakes was spotted near Titan's frigid north pole during a weekend flyby by the international Cassini spacecraft, which flew within 590 miles of the moon.
Researchers counted about a dozen lakes ranging from 6 miles to 62 miles wide. Some lakes, which appeared as dark patches in radar images, were connected by channels while others had tributaries flowing into them. Several were dried up, but the ones that contained liquid were most likely a mix of methane and ethane.
"It was a real potpourri," said Cassini scientist Jonathan Lunine of the University of Arizona.
Titan is one of two moons in the solar system known to possess a significant atmosphere similar to primordial Earth. But scientists have long puzzled over the source of its hazy atmosphere rich in nitrogen and methane.
Scientists believe methane gas breaks up in Titan's atmosphere and forms smog clouds that then rain methane down to the surface. But the source of methane inside the moon, which is releasing the gas into the atmosphere is still unknown, Lunine said.
Last year, Cassini found what appeared to be a liquid hydrocarbon lake about the size of Lake Ontario on Titan's south pole. But the recent flyby marked the first time the spacecraft spied a multitude of lakes.
Cassini's next Titan encounter will be Sept. 7 when it will be 620 miles away.
Cassini, funded by NASA and the European and Italian space agencies, was launched in 1997 and took seven years to reach Saturn to explore the ringed planet and its numerous moons. The mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
Cassini's accompanying probe, Huygens, developed and controlled by the ESA, touched down on Titan in 2005.
Could be interesting...
Lakes on Titan
July 24, 2006
The Cassini spacecraft, using its radar system, has discovered very strong evidence for hydrocarbon lakes on Titan. Dark patches, which resemble terrestrial lakes, seem to be sprinkled all over the high latitudes surrounding Titan's north pole.
Scientists have speculated that liquid methane or ethane might form lakes on Titan, particularly near the somewhat colder polar regions. In the images, a variety of dark patches, some with channels leading in or out of them, appear. The channels have a shape that strongly implies they were carved by liquid. Some of the dark patches and connecting channels are completely black, that is, they reflect back essentially no radar signal, and hence must be extremely smooth. In some cases rims can be seen around the dark patches, suggesting deposits that might form as liquid evaporates.
The abundant methane in Titan's atmosphere is stable as a liquid under Titan conditions, as is its abundant chemical product, ethane, but liquid water is not. For all these reasons, scientists interpret the dark areas as lakes of liquid methane or ethane, making Titan the only body in the solar system besides Earth known to possess lakes. Because such lakes may wax and wane over time, and winds may alter the roughness of their surfaces. Repeat coverage of these areas should test whether indeed these are bodies of liquid.
These two radar images were acquired by the Cassini radar instrument in synthetic aperture mode on July 21, 2006. The top image centered near 80 degrees north, 92 degrees west measures about 420 kilometers by 150 kilometers (260 miles by 93 miles). The lower image centered near 78 degrees north, 18 degrees west measures about 475 kilometers by 150 kilometers (295 miles by 93 miles). Smallest details in this image are about 500 meters (1,640 feet) across.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The radar instrument was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency, working with team members from the United States and several European countries.
I wonder what kinda screwy religion they have on Titan thatll keep us from getting their oil.
Does this mean there is no lightening on Titan, or no Oxygen to sustain a fire?
Please extinguish all smoking materials before disembarking onto the surface of Titan.
OK. Award Halliburton the prospecting rights.
Yeah. Gotta crank up the ping machine ...
So should the hydrocarbons be shipped raw or should a refinery be build on Titan?
I think a pipeline would be the most practical solution.
LoL... must've been some evil beasts.... Hydro carbons being a natural occurance.... wonder if some research is being done to unlock the process.. how bout coal..
Karl Rove says the "pipeline is in the mail"!bwahahahahaha!
One of these lakes can handle all of our energy needs for hundreds of years, IMO. There's gotta be a way to harness the energy.
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