Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space

Liquid Lakes On Saturn's Moon Confirmed 188

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the time-for-a-saturn-icon dept.
Riding with Robots writes "Scientists have been using the robotic spacecraft Cassini to explore what looked to be large lakes of hydrocarbons on the surface of Saturn's planet-sized moon Titan. But they couldn't be entirely sure that the features were actually liquid lakes, and not simply very smooth, solid material. Now, new findings seem to confirm that the observations really do show extensive seas of liquid ethane and other hydrocarbons. In fact, Titan seems to have an entire 'water' cycle of ethane evaporation, rain and rivers."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Liquid Lakes On Saturn's Moon Confirmed

Comments Filter:
  • by dlgeek (1065796) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @08:46AM (#24414841)
    FTA: "[T]hese particles form a ubiquitous hydrocarbon haze that hinders the view."
    Sounds just like LA.
    • by kellyb9 (954229)

      It is ringed by a dark beach, where the black lake merges with the bright shoreline.

      Sounds more like Jersey if you ask me.

    • Sounds more like Beijing. Maybe they can hold the next Olympics there.

  • Kewl! I want to go Surfing!
    • Ethane BOILS at -88 C, so skip the zinc oxide and pack some mittens and earmuffs.
  • "This makes Titan the only body in our solar system beyond Earth known to have liquid on its surface."

    i thought venus had molten metal rivers on it's surface. or is it just an uncorfimed hypotesis ?

    anyone more knowledged tham me could please step forward ?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CheshireCatCO (185193)

      No, Venus's surface is a desert. It'd be hard to get a river of metal anyway: only a few metals are liquid on its surface and not even the extremely abundant ones like iron.

      • by radarjd (931774)

        only a few metals are liquid on its surface and not even the extremely abundant ones like iron.

        Does that mean there are pools of liquid metal, even if there aren't rivers?

        • No, there just aren't many metals that I can think of that would both melt and be found in any real abundance. Also, I've certainly never heard of any evidence of such things from my Venus-studying colleagues, although I admit that I don't attend their meetings.

      • No, Venus's surface is a desert.

        In that it doesn't have any water. However it does rain pure liquid sulphuric acid from time to time

  • Amazing! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 4D6963 (933028) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @08:55AM (#24414951)

    Please tell me that all these rovers on Mars were just there to train for the real thing on Titan.

    No seriously, picture how awesome it would be to explore Titan with rovers. This place is probably the one place in the Solar system that has the most in common with our planet! The fact that it still has rivers and liquid lakes makes it so much more interesting than Mars, plus it has a thick atmosphere (5 times our atmosphere on the surface) we could probably send a UAV there or a blimp.

    • Re:Amazing! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 4D6963 (933028) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @09:05AM (#24415123)

      OK here's my idea of a fancy mission to Titan. Firstly, an orbiter around Titan, with a nice camera and the appropriate filters to see through the atmosphere like Cassini has, but also so radar thing to map the whole thing , even under its liquid lakes, and gather lots of informations about what must be Titan's unusual geology, and that would serve as a relay between Earth and the various machines on Titan. Then a lander, not necessarily a rover but that could be a plus, mainly designed to study the local geology and weather. Then a robot to explore the lakes, their chemistry, eventual currents, their depth.

      And the fanciest part of all, a UAV-carrying blimp. It would float in Titan's thick atmosphere, low enough to be able to carry heavy weights (remember, on Titan a pressure of 1 Earth atmosphere is pretty high above the ground) and cover a lot of ground, provided there's some wind on Titan. It would obviously study the atmosphere, clouds, winds, chemicals composition, temperature etc extensively, but it would also be greatly placed to study the ground from very close. I said UAV-carrying, what would be more fancy than a blimp that would launch tiny UAVs that would fly around taking lots of pictures and measurements to then return to the blimp?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GameboyRMH (1153867)

        Cool idea, but the UAV-carrying aspect of the blimp is an expensive disappointment waiting to happen...imagine how disappointing it would be when one or more of the UAVs crashes, and when you try to fly an autonomous UAV around an alien planet, it will happen, and probably in short order. Also in a thick atmosphere, while the aircraft would need smaller lifting surfaces / lift bags they'd also need to be big and heavy so they won't be blown around like a styrofoam take-out box if there's any wind at all, wh

        • by 4D6963 (933028)

          Well maybe the UAV part isn't worth it considered how complicated it would be rather than just a blimp, but on the other hand it doesn't seem that bad. It seems that near the surface winds are weak (around 0.5 m/s, or 1.8 km/h), so it doesn't matter so much if the UAVs get blown around like storyfoam in that case. It seems however that high altitude winds can reach up to 270 mph, which could be used by the blimp to travel large distances.

          I think the main problem is really how to make a UAV/blimp fly in an a

        • Yeah, considering that they have a hard time getting free fall to work right the first time (both Mars and the Moon have a few man-made craters, *wink*), it would be a real trick to build flying machines (either gasbag or wing contraptions) that worked in a very different (and not even fully understood) atmosphere...

          Actually, joking aside, that would be a really interesting job. Since they don't know what the atmosphere is like they'd probably have to give it a pretty decent margin of error and then use som

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by 4D6963 (933028)

            First of all we know Titan's atmosphere way well enough for that (look it up, we're far from completely ignorant about it unlike what you make it out to be), thanks to sending a probe there. And it wouldn't necessarily be hard, it's not because the atmosphere is different that it'd make it hard, it's just a few things about the atmosphere that may make it harder or easier, but there's nothing inherently hard about it.

            Also, I think it might be easier to inflate a blimp during a parachute-slowed decent than t

            • I wasn't implying we were completely ignorant of the atmosphere, and a probe that free-fell isn't going to tell us everything there is to be learned about flying in it. There could be stuff the probe didn't pick up, such as weather or variances from what the probe actually encountered. I'm not saying it can't be done, just that it'd be a nice trick.

              Blimps have to have a pretty precisely calculated mass-per-volume relative to the atmosphere. I don't know exactly how much we know about the atmosphere, but the

      • Map under the lakes of Titan? We can't even do that with EARTH's oceans yet.
    • Yes, Europa's ice covered ocean is another interesting but difficult target and IMHO is currently the most likely place to find ET.
    • This place is probably the one place in the Solar system that has the most in common with our planet!

      How do you figure that? It may have liquid on the surface but it isn't water, the temperature makes a Canadian winter seem hot and any oxygen would be explosive.
      The surface of Mars or the clouds of Venus are much more similar to Earth, despite the lack of water. In fact it is likely that some types of terrestrial bacteria could survive on Mars. I don't think the same could be said of Titan.
      I agree it would be really interesting to explore Titan and study the effects of the liquid ethane on the surface

      • by 4D6963 (933028)

        It's the only body other than Earth that has running liquids, lakes, shorelines, rivers, water erosion, and an atmosphere about as dense as Earth's (besides giant planets the other bodies either have ridiculously tenuous atmosphere, weak atmospheres like Mars, only Titan and Venus compare but Venus has a surface pressure of 95 bars, Titan only 1.46).

        Besides Titan's atmosphere is 98.4% nitrogen, as the Earth's is 78% nitrogen, and only 1.6% of it is methane, which makes me wonder if it would even react with

        • It's the only body other than Earth that has running liquids, lakes, shorelines, rivers...

          So it looks superficially like Earth but is actually nothing like it. As I said it will be very interesting to explore and study because it does have liquid but it will only look like Earth. It would be like saying that a real apple has more in common with a wax replica than it does with a pear because the two look the same.

          • by 4D6963 (933028)
            Damnit Roger Moore, I thought you were pretty annoying in your James Bond movies, but you're even worse in reality. And by reality I mean Slashdot.
  • Tidal Lock (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @08:57AM (#24414991) Journal

    Does anyone know if Titan is in tidal lock with Saturn? Anyone know if there exists a list of which moons are in tidal lock and which aren't?

  • by Antwerp Atom (1306775) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @09:03AM (#24415079) Journal
    Excellent presentation on the moons of Saturn by Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini mission imaging team at the 2007 TED conference. (video)
    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/carolyn_porco_flies_us_to_saturn.html [ted.com]
  • by Sique (173459) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @09:11AM (#24415181) Homepage

    Before anyone comes up with the idea to mine the hydrocarbonates on Titan to overcome the oil and energy crisis on Earth, hold your breath!

    The energy necessary to accelerate the mined hydrocarbonates enough to transfer them to Earth is higher than the actual energy equivalent you get by burning the hydrocarbonates. That's because you would have to accelerate the Titan-oil from 9.7 km/sec (orbital speed of Saturn) to 29.7 km/sec (orbital speed of Earth).

    • by Thelasko (1196535)

      The energy necessary to accelerate the mined hydrocarbonates enough to transfer them to Earth is higher than the actual energy equivalent you get by burning the hydrocarbonates.

      What about transferring oxygen from Earth to Titan?

      Think about it! On Titan, cars don't need fuel injection, they need oxygen injection.

    • by Kingrames (858416)

      But how much energy would it take to get it into space where we could use it there?

    • I think you would only need to accelerate out of the gravity well of Titan (plus a little more to boost from Titan's orbital speed to Saturn's escape velocity). The rest of the trip is downhill to a parking orbit around the Earth or Moon.

      Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's how it would work.

      Big old sausages full of Titan's Finest, with a few oxygen tanks strapped on, some low power rocket engines, and a good guidance system. Biggest energy drain of the whole trip would be the LEDs that light up the ship's name:

      • by Hatta (162192)

        You're going to have to do something to conserve all that angular momentum. As you coast down the sun's gravity well, you're picking up speed, placing you into a higher orbit, so nothing is accomplished. You have to burn fuel to slow down if you're going to get anywhere.

        • As you coast down the sun's gravity well, you're picking up speed, placing you into a higher orbit, so nothing is accomplished. You have to burn fuel to slow down if you're going to get anywhere.

          There's a quick way to slow down that doesn't involve burning fuel. It's called 'crashing'. All you need to do is find something large, heavy, solid and uninhabited, somewhere conveniently near Earth, and plough straight on into it. A lump of rock in the range of, oh, seventy-four quintillion tons should be enough

        • Bullshit.

          Sliding from a higher orbit (Saturn) to a lower one (Earth) involves an exchange of potential energy for kinetic energy. With appropriate timing and direction of the intial burn (to escape Titan-Saturn gravity wells), our fictional Condoleezza Rice fat sausage ship would only need to make a couple of minor course corrections: it would mostly be free fall. Granted, it would be a long coast, but we've got proven technology for unmanned long term space travel. And we've also got experience in shippi

    • Yea, that would be almost as stupid as spending more money to invade a country and secure their entire oil supply than that oil supply is actually worth.

    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      That's because you would have to accelerate the Titan-oil from 9.7 km/sec (orbital speed of Saturn) to 29.7 km/sec (orbital speed of Earth).

      Except it doesn't work like that at all. You don't accelerate, otherwise you'll never go down to Earth's orbit, you decelerate to go down, and by doing so you gain speed.

    • That's because you would have to accelerate the Titan-oil from 9.7 km/sec (orbital speed of Saturn) to 29.7 km/sec (orbital speed of Earth).

      ...but some fraction (most?) of that can be offset from the change in gravitational potential between Titan and Earth. (I agree it is still a stupid idea though!)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Anyone else read the headline as:

    Liquid Snake On Saturn's Moon Confirmed

    Oh my god! A new MGS Game!

  • For those not familiar with Ethane [wikipedia.org], it has a boiling point of -86.6 degrees Celsius. Interesting that a moon has cycles in the neighborhood of that temperature range. Though a trip there would make most parts of Antarctica seem like a tropical reprieve.
    • by RobBebop (947356)

      And for people whose minds think in a different temperature system:

      -86.6 degree Celsius = -123.88 degree Fahrenheit

      Luckily, with a spark and some oxygen the liquid ethane will burn gloriously to keep you warm.

      Unluckily, you'll still eventually die.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @09:40AM (#24415605)

    sgt: Ok, men, wax your boards and hit the surf.

    pvt: Hey, do you think it's safe?

    sgt: Don't worry, Geeblort don't surf!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I thought we've always had beaten into our heads that hydrocarbons, and oil and gas in particular were the result of decaying biomass from dinosaurs. So, where did these hydrocarbons come from? Was Titan an outpost for some spacefaring dino species, that got wiped out in a strange intergalactic plague? Or is there a much more sane, reasonable answer that I just haven't seen yet?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CheshireCatCO (185193)

      The hydrocarbons are pretty simple relative to organically-produced ones. You get the more complicated ones on Titan by photo-chemical reactions in the atmosphere. (UV from the Sun breaks bonds which recombine in new and exciting ways.)

    • by hoggoth (414195) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @11:35AM (#24417653) Journal

      > I thought we've always had beaten into our heads that hydrocarbons, and oil and gas in particular were the result of decaying biomass from dinosaurs. So, where did these hydrocarbons come from? Was Titan an outpost for some spacefaring dino species, that got wiped out in a strange intergalactic plague? Or is there a much more sane, reasonable answer that I just haven't seen yet?

      Q: Ethane on Titan comes from:

      A. The decayed, compressed remains of Titanic Dinosaurs.
      A: Xenu dropped his dinosauroid enemies into volcanos on Titan.
      B: The devil planted it there to trick us
      C: Solar radiation hits Methane (CH4), splitting it into (CH3+H), which quickly recombines into Ethane (C2H6)

      • > : Solar radiation hits Methane (CH4), splitting it into (CH3+H),
        > which quickly recombines into Ethane (C2H6)

        OK smartypants, so where did the methane come from?
        Or is it turtles all the way down?

        • by hoggoth (414195)

          I never said (C) was the right answer. Personally, I suspect this is the correct answer [wearscience.com]

        • Methane is a natural and expected part of the moons (and planets) in the outer solar system. You'll note that Uranus and Neptune have large methane contents and even Saturn has a noticeable methane haze in its upper atmosphere.

          (You don't see a lot of methane on Earth because we have an oxygen-rich atmosphere and methane has a lifetime in the atmosphere of around a decade.)

  • A consortium of Exxon/Shell/BP/Haliburton have formed the Hydrocarbon Orbital Recovery - Exterra Partners, know as HORE Partners, to being planning for recover of the Titan resources.

  • The whole "USA invade SATuRn for OiL" thing gets tiring after a while. What are the real chances of a form of life on Titan?

    According to TFA the lakes seem to be a mixture of ethane, methane and other hydrocarbons. From what I've read, he general consensus is that life requires a liquid solvent that can dissolve a vast amount of materials, such as water or ammonia. It seems that ammonia ices and water ices have been ruled out on the surface, leaving only the frozen and non frozen areas of hydrocarbons.

    Given

    • Chemistry (Score:3, Interesting)

      by slew (2918)

      All the articles mention ethane being the product of methane "broken" by sunlight, it is actually methane CH4 having it's H knocked away by a sunlight reaction to make a methyl CH3 radical and joining with another CH3 to make ethane C2H6. I guess you can call that "broken" into ethane.

      Given that the above reaction has a byproduct of H*, I guess there is an open question if it can somehow combine with the Nitrogen. For example, if you have some natural process of natural Nitrogen fixation (breaking the tri

  • On soviet Titan, the planet orbits you.

"Gotcha, you snot-necked weenies!" -- Post Bros. Comics

Working...