Posts Tagged ‘Titan’

Hey, get a load of this…

Titan's Nile (full)

From Wired

Vast Alien River System Spotted on Saturn’s Moon Titan

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has spotted a river system stretching more than 200 miles on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Though it isn’t the Nile — which is more than 20 times as long — the mighty river provides further evidence that this odd little moon is a wet world not unlike our own. Many lakes and small rivers have been found already on Titan but the newly discovered stream is the largest yet and represents the first time scientists have seen such a vast liquid system on any world other than Earth.

Titan’s mini-Nile doesn’t flow with water, which freezes to be hard as stone on the moon, but rather liquid hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane, which are stable in the moon’s -290 degree Fahrenheit average temperatures. From its headwaters, the flow follows a fault line and runs into the Kraken Mare, one of three gigantic seas that cover Titan’s northern hemisphere. Titan’s liquid cycle also includes seasonal downpours, which have been spotted from orbit. Whether all this liquid improves the chances for life on Titan remains an open mystery.

The enormous image above was acquired on Sept. 26 but only released on Dec. 12.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI

The Saturnian system has always excited me. It is seriously cool… and seriously exotic. A treasure trove of anomalies. I have long said that the farther out you go, the stranger and weirder things get; and I am pleased to report that this observation has yet to disappoint me.

Okay, so this river isn’t exactly weird, being, well, a river, but it’s nice and long and actually is pretty exotic as outlined above and I, for one, am more than willing to speculate that there are a wide variety of critters living in and around those currents. And eddies! I love eddies. Sorry.

Not to go too off-topic, but you can probably guess that I really, truly like the fact that the ocean this river feeds is called the Kraken Mare. WAAAH!
I am hoping with all my heart that naming it that proves to be the very definition of “foresight!”

I’d say this calls for at least a rover. Better yet, how about a sub to go with it!

Edit to add that the Kraken Mare is five times bigger than Lake Superior!

Peace.

Lake on Titan by Cassini. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech and NASA/USGS)

A recent study finds that the lake known as Ontario Lacus on Saturn's moon Titan (left) bears striking similarity to a salt pan on Earth known as the Etosha Pan (right). (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech and NASA/USGS)

Now this is pretty rad!

Seems the cycle of liquids on Titan works much the same as our water cycle.This is in a desert area and its quite flat and shallow. Cyclically it would fill up with liquid, drain and repeat… in this case, it seems… liquid hydrocarbons.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 20, 2012) — A new study analyzing data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft suggests that the lake, known as Ontario Lacus, behaves most similarly to what we call a salt pan on Earth.

A group led by Thomas Cornet of the Université de Nantes, France, a Cassini associate, found evidence for long-standing channels etched into the lake bed within the southern boundary of the depression. This suggests that Ontario Lacus, previously thought to be completely filled with liquid hydrocarbons, could actually be a depression that drains and refills from below, exposing liquid areas ringed by materials like saturated sand or mudflats.

“We conclude that the solid floor of Ontario Lacus is most probably exposed in those areas,” said Cornet, whose paper appears in a recent issue of the journal Icarus.

These characteristics make Ontario Lacus very similar to the Etosha salt pan on Earth, which is a lake bed that fills with a shallow layer of water from groundwater levels that rise during the rainy season. This layer then evaporates and leaves sediments like tide marks showing the previous extent of the water.

“Some of the things we see happening in our own backyard are right there on Titan to study and learn from,” said Bonnie Buratti, a co-author and Cassini team member based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “On Earth, salt pans tend to form in deserts where liquids can suddenly accumulate, so it appears the same thing is happening on Titan.“

And that is yet another thing to bolster the chances of finding critters out there. And what mind-blowing critters they’d be! As this lake fills and drains regularly with some juicy stuff, my vote is for carbon-based life swimmin’ around in there. As much of Titan is more concerned with elements other than carbon, though, there’s speculation that life based on other elements would likely be the critters of choice.

They’d be a bit different from us I’d imagine, being based on something other than carbon. This is by no means a new concept of course. There is some concern bubbling round in me brainpan regarding a thought on that.

Since carbon is all we know and posts at the forum cannot fathom how other substances would “work,” would we, then, have the innate ability to recognize something that is alive – but bears no quality other than being alive – that we have ever experienced before?

An excellent question.

Spotted this in a recent post at ATS which led to the source article at Science Daily.

Peace.