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Astronomers discover signs of waves on Titan

Posted on Tuesday, 18 March, 2014 | Comment icon 12 comments

Saturn's moon Titan. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Saturn's enigmatic moon Titan could be home to the first known ocean waves outside of the Earth.
While on our own planet we have lakes, oceans and rain made of liquid water, on Titan these same features exist but are instead made of liquid methane, ethane and other hydrocarbons due to the moon's thick atmosphere and freezing temperatures.

Now scientists believe that they may have spotted the first signs that the seas of Titan share another feature common to Earth's oceans. Glints of light picked up from the surface by NASA's Cassini spacecraft suggest that Titan's hydrocarbon oceans may also produce their own waves and ripples, albeit on a much smaller scale.

"Titan may be beginning to stir," said planetary scientist Ralph Lorenz. "Oceanography is no longer just an Earth science."

Source: Nature.com | Comments (12)

Tags: Titan, Saturn

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #3 Posted by paperdyer on 18 March, 2014, 19:37
If life is on Titan, I wonder what it would be based on. We're based on carbon, so maybe Silicon?
Comment icon #4 Posted by Sundew on 18 March, 2014, 20:27
Surfs up, but don't forget your wet suit. Liquid methane is a bit chilly.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Rhino666 on 18 March, 2014, 20:41
I can't see anyone wanting to swim in it. Look for things more interesting like martian pooh and traffic wardens.
Comment icon #6 Posted by AZDZ on 18 March, 2014, 20:52
Cowabunga, dude!
Comment icon #7 Posted by JustTerri on 18 March, 2014, 21:30
That's incredible.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Uncle Sam on 19 March, 2014, 3:45
I wonder would this planet be suitable for habitation if it was terraformed and transported to an stable orbit near Earth... Image making it orbit around Earth like the Moon but with rotation, but it is habitable unlike the moon. That would be an awesome sight.
Comment icon #9 Posted by ninjadude on 20 March, 2014, 2:12
It would likely explode. As it moves to earths orbit around the sun, it would be warmed significantly from the several hundred degrees below zero currently. The hydrocarbon lakes would sublimate into gas and the atmosphere would just take a spark to explode. Whatever rocks and ice that hold it together would also loosen and it would fly apart.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 20 March, 2014, 2:37
This is total and utter nonsense. Methane and ethane will only burn in the presence of oxygen. As there is no oxygen in the atmosphere of Titan you can warm it up as much as you like and it won't burn, never mind explode.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 20 March, 2014, 2:43
Why silicon when Titan has oceans of hydrocarbons? Silicon based life is a great staple of science fiction, but it not very likely. Silicon simply does not form the complex molecules that carbon does and such complex molecules are needed for life. Life of any kind is unlikely on Titan because of the extremely low temperatures. The colder the temperature the slower the chemical reaction. At the sort of temperatures found on Titan the sort of chemical reactions for any sort of life we would recognise (carbon or silicon based) would simply be too slow. There are far better places to look for... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by qxcontinuum on 20 March, 2014, 13:53
There is much more regular peeps don't know about Titan. It is the only satellite and celestial body having a dense atmosphere as earth with primordial earth like conditions before life. It is well known that Titan's surface is covered by water, ice and rock so the waves could be liquid water as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titan_(moon) If i want to find life in our solar system, i surely go on titan first then on mars. Here is how it looks like from out of space. Very much similar to earth.

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