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Cassini photographs Titan's land of lakes

Posted on Saturday, 26 October, 2013 | Comment icon 15 comments

The dark patches in the image are believed to be lakes of liquid methane. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured an image showing lakes dotted over the surface of Titan.
The thick atmosphere of the Saturnian moon covers up the only known planetary surface in the solar system other than the Earth to be home to liquid lakes. Due to the extreme cold of Titan's surface however the liquid, far from being water, is actually comprised of methane and ethane.

The new image shows a cluster of large lakes near Titan's north pole region. It was taken using Cassini's on-board radar which is able to peer through the dense clouds and view what lies on the surface below.

Titan is one of the most intriguing and unique bodies in the solar system as it appears to have an Earth-like hydrological cycle that works with hydrocarbons instead of water. While inhospitable, this remote world exhibits many characteristics reminiscent of what we see here on Earth.

"It turns out that Titan's north pole is even more interesting than we thought, with a complex interplay of liquids in lakes and seas and deposits left from the evaporation of past lakes and seas," said scientist Jason Barnes.

Source: NASA | Comments (15)

Tags: Saturn, Titan

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by Frank Merton on 26 October, 2013, 13:14
I suspect when we get to going out there regularly that we will find the most valuable resource is water.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Fox Mccloud on 26 October, 2013, 13:35
i love this, I just heard there's a dwarf planet called Ceres in our solar system. that most likely has water in or on it.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Frank Merton on 26 October, 2013, 13:41
The moonlets of Saturn are probably mostly ice, a large portion water but other ices too. The thing that will make water so important is not likely to be that it isn't there but that we need so much of it.
Comment icon #9 Posted by CRIPTIC CHAMELEON on 26 October, 2013, 23:13
If my memory is right isn't methane & ethane extremely flammable gases (at certain temperatures) so if someone did want to land on Titans surface wouldn't they have to be careful where they land. Or is it to cold for the gases to ignite.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 26 October, 2013, 23:43
If my memory is right isn't methane & ethane extremely flammable gases (at certain temperatures) so if someone did want to land on Titans surface wouldn't they have to be careful where they land. Or is it to cold for the gases to ignite. Ethane and methane are extremely flammable in the presence of oxygen. Since Titan does not have an oxygen atmosphere there can be no methane or ethane fires. However on Titan oxygen would be a flammable gas and would burn if ignited.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Metal Head on 27 October, 2013, 2:59
Didn't we once consider Titan habitable? I guess that's out the window now.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 27 October, 2013, 3:19
Didn't we once consider Titan habitable? I guess that's out the window now. Quite the opposite actually. The moons of the outer planets were all considered too cold for life. It was only with the discovery that some of these satellites were heated by tidal forces, meaning that could could have water oceans below an ice layer that it was seriously considered that some of them could harbour life. With the extreme cold and hydrocarbons taking the role that water does on Earth any life on Titan would have to extremely exotic.
Comment icon #13 Posted by DONTEATUS on 27 October, 2013, 3:56
Auh ! yes but what exotic Life it would be ! Can you just Imagine ?
Comment icon #14 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 27 October, 2013, 7:19
Can you just Imagine ? No I can't, that's the point.
Comment icon #15 Posted by paperdyer on 28 October, 2013, 16:35
If we could create ships that gather the lakes, and return to earth, then we may have just found a replacement for Saudi Oil.... Except how would you keep it cool during re-entry? I know a Giant-normous Pipeline from a Space Station!

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