Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space

Titan May Have an Ocean 109

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the too-cold-to-swim-here-too dept.
olsmeister writes "Titan has been a particular focus of attention because of its dense, complex atmosphere, its weather and its lakes and oceans. Now it looks as if Titan is even stranger still. The evidence comes from careful observations of Titan's orbit and rotation. This indicates that Titan has an orbit similar to our Moon's; it always presents the same face toward Saturn and its axis of rotation tilts by about 0.3 degrees. This data allows astronomers to work out Titan's moment of inertia and points to something interesting. The numbers indicate that Titan's moment of inertia can only be explained if it is a solid body that is denser near the surface than it is at its center."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Titan May Have an Ocean

Comments Filter:
  • 8) (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2011 @10:45AM (#35855468)

    You don't have to be a quantum mechanic,
    To know that this ocean is a little Methanic,
    If atmospheric densities remain the same,
    Then other hydrocarbons are not to blame,
    For the process being just a little too Titanic.

    • I was thinking of:
      There was a young fella from Brighton,
      Who exclaimed, your mums a tight'en,
      I said, pom my soul,
      Your in the wrong hole,
      There's an ocean of space in the right'en

    • Re:8) (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2011 @11:38AM (#35855956)

      You don't have to be a quantum mechanic,
      To know that this ocean is a little Methanic,
      If atmospheric densities remain the same,
      Then other hydrocarbons are not to blame,
      For the process being just a little too Titanic.

      There once was a chap called Phong
      Who was rapping a lyrical song
      When he started to blow
      His words didn't flow,
      "It rhymes, so what could be wrong?"

      A limerick doesn't just rhyme.
      One has to consider the time.
      It's a concept called meter,
      That causes the reader,
      To laugh at your lyrical crime.

    • Burma shave?
  • "Titan's moment of inertia can only be explained if it is a solid body that is denser near the surface than it is at its centre".

    Maybe it's partially hollow. Pellucidar, anyone? Possibly inhabited by Heinlein's Puppet Masters...

    • by peragrin (659227)

      Forgotten prototype of the death star which has over the milenia, been hit is enough astroids to get a dirt surface.

    • Possibly inhabited by Heinlein's Puppet Masters...

      Lets hope they follow the plot by colonising Venus first.

  • Interesting Stuff (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PmanAce (1679902) on Monday April 18, 2011 @10:47AM (#35855490) Homepage
    Stuff like this brings out the inner child in me, wanting to explore and see these discoveries with my own eyes. Sometimes I wish I was born 500+ years from now so I could actually be able to explore these strange worlds with my own eyes. Not saying humans would have these places colonized but at least have some sort of outpost nearby able to fully explore these places robotically or with human presence.
    • You want to go to Titan? All it has is that run down amusement park.
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Cold enough to freeze methane is probably a little chilly for you. Be sure to bring a parka!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2011 @11:37AM (#35855952)

      Sometimes I wish I was born 500+ years from now so I could actually be able to explore these strange worlds with my own eyes.

      Sadly, you'd be just like you are now. Ignoring (or undervaluing) the fact that you've got access to explore strange words that people 500 years ago could only dream about.

      • by pscottdv (676889)

        Sadly, you'd be just like you are now. Ignoring (or undervaluing) the fact that you've got access to explore strange words that people 500 years ago could only dream about.

        Like "blogging", "twitter" and "app"

        • Like "blogging", "twitter" and "app"

          If people dreamed of these things 500 years ago, I weep for humanity.

          • by Kentari (1265084)
            Or you could go for the more interesting stuff... The microscope, telescope, submarine and airplane were invented in the last 500 years and they all allow you to see worlds noone could imagine 500 years ago. Travelling beyond your own county and the local market was pretty rare as well (unless you were either important or unlucky).
      • by Abstrackt (609015)

        Sometimes I wish I was born 500+ years from now so I could actually be able to explore these strange worlds with my own eyes.

        Sadly, you'd be just like you are now. Ignoring (or undervaluing) the fact that you've got access to explore strange words that people 500 years ago could only dream about.

        If those people 500 years ago weren't dreaming about what's normal for us now I doubt he'd be able to dream about something so amazing now. It's the fact that we keep looking forward that makes all this "impossible" stuff happen.

        • by Chli (2057122)
          Scientist are still finding out new things about our planet, & ur here now & can see these things, so why not instead of talking about how you "wish you could explopre these strange worlds with your own eyes" why don't you just do it?!! Try exploring whats on your doorstep (i.e; your own planet) first. Our own planet hold hundreds/thousands of different worlds inside our own, surely thats at least just as interesting as other planets possibly having an ocean, if not more?!!
    • Re:Interesting Stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kjella (173770) on Monday April 18, 2011 @12:33PM (#35856534) Homepage

      Honestly, Titan would be as "done" as the Moon is "done" today. Been there, done that, pretty boring piece of rock in the sky really that nobody's bothered to visit for almost 40 years. If we go there, yeah there's methane in fluid form but it's sterile like an operating room it will be just another one of those rocks.

      If you really wanted to be the inner geek, you should go back to Leonardo da Vinci's time, when you could be a multi-discipline genius and most of his inventions really were hands on. Between electron microscopes, giant telescopes, huge particle colliders, robots and probes it's mostly reading stuff out of devices. And when it comes to space on the one side the Mars landers aren't being on Mars, on the other it'll take most of the "news" out of going to Mars. Now here's images just like the landers - except with people in them.

      Personally I think one of the most exciting parts of space - searching for other earth-like planets - is happening right now. Good candidates are likely to show up in my lifetime, not in 500+ years. If we can find some, then going to Titan is a lot less interesting. Then people will dream of crossing the interstellar void and reaching "new earth". That's the thing about science, we always move the goal posts.

      • yeah there's methane in fluid form but it's sterile like an operating room it will be just another one of those rocks.

        Watch the opening to "The Polar Express" - pay attention to the "Devoid of Life" bit, then watch any of the BBC documentaries about the polar regions...

        Things are far more complex and interesting up-close than they ever will be when viewed with less than a trillionth of their reflected light...

    • by master_p (608214)

      I too want it.

      We could do it so if humanity wasn't so sort-sighted...all the resources spent in wars could have easily be used to built an Orion class spaceship in orbit with artificial gravity from rotating modules.

      • The Orion spaceship is the easy part, "Political Science" is the hard one. We're making some progress on the political front, if we could only get the politicians serving the majority of the people, I think we'd be in great shape.

        • by master_p (608214)

          The only way to bring true democracy is when the middleman is eliminated; in short, when democracy is direct.

          In the past, direct democracy was costly, but nowadays technology allows it, so there is no excuse for not having it.

          • There is the offsetting Bread and Circuses [wikipedia.org] problem with direct democracy - an overnight revolution establishing true democracy would probably lead to a breakdown of society sufficiently dramatic to erase the technology that makes direct democracy possible - catch 22 if you will.

            Still, it would be gratifying to just once see a majority of the US Federal Congress vote for something (important, like tax rates) that serves the majority of the people - directly, without waiting for the benefits to "trickle down"

            • by master_p (608214)

              First of all, there need not be a revolution. Just a change.

              Secondly, even if there is a revolution, it might be a peaceful one. It does not need to be a bloody mess.

              • Yes, I recall voting for Change a couple of years back, and I will continue voting for it at every opportunity.

                Unfortunately, among voters, I appear to be a minority.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Hi, my name is Joh Deoxiao and I have a limit on data sent through this tap, so I'll get straight to the point: we don't want any of you primitives from the dark ages in our time. I know that you're only like that because you're so energy-deprived that you actually need to do slave work in order to obtain fuel for your cars and have energy delivered to you from power plants. You don't have the basic amenities like fusegens in your shabby brick homes, your farms aren't in automatic reflective folding silos a
    • ...I wish I was born 500+ years from now so I could actually be able to explore these strange worlds with my own eyes.

      Lots of optimistic assumptions built into this one - like a turn-around in the space program's current growth pattern, continued stability of the underlying political structure, and climate.

      It is easy to imagine lots of possible 500+ year from now futures, not many of them include the majority of the world population having access to explore interplanetary space, if even just remotely.

      Keep dreaming, and vote liberal...

    • Sometimes I wish I was born 500+ years from now

      Be thankful that you were not born 500 years ago. We got to see the moon landing at least.

    • In all fairness, we might (notice the attention I give to that word) be closer to such explorations than anyone thinks.

      While we're certainly decades if not centuries away from being able to physically travel even as close as Titan, "Quantum Entanglement" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spooky_action) might allow for instantaneous communication across distance.

      That would allow, with current technology, robotic probes possessing human levels of sophistication because it would alleviate the need for advanced Art

  • by Divide By Zero (70303) on Monday April 18, 2011 @10:47AM (#35855496)
    Granted, this is unlikely, but it's consistent with the article summary.

    No, I didn't RTFA - why do you ask?

  • Incomplete summary! (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThunderBird89 (1293256) <zalanmeggyesi@@@yahoo...com> on Monday April 18, 2011 @10:49AM (#35855520)

    If there's one thing that should be included there, it's that the 'ocean' isn't a surface ocean, like Earth's, but a SUBSURFACE one, like Europa's!

    Editors, for fuck's sake, please check the submissions, not only for grammar, but for factual accuracy too!

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)
      Yep. Title of Submission: "Titan May Have Ocean". First sentence:" Titan, has been a particular focus of attention because of its dense, complex atmosphere, its weather and its lakes and oceans". Summary seems to not really make sense until you go to the article which states it's a subsurface ocean.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He didn't claim it was a surface ocean either. You're just adding an adjective, not proving him wrong.

  • Sounds like a candy.

    Actually if Titan has a methane ocean under the surface, it would really fill the role as out fill up station. Now we take the methane and extract hydrogen to fuel our ships?

    • by daid303 (843777)

      Actually if Titan has a methane ocean under the surface, it would really fill the role as out fill up station. Now we take the methane and extract hydrogen to fuel our ships?

      Methane itself is a fuel already, but you need oxygen to burn it, same with hydrogen.
      Saturn itself is 96% H2. Wouldn't that be a better source for your hydrogen?

      Anyhow, Earth seems to be the only real source of oxygen. More then enough hydrogen to be found everywhere, seems oxygen is the inter-planet fuel.

      • by ekgringo (693136)
        I'm not sure that Saturn would be a good place to stop, considering the ENORMOUS gravity well it has. You'd spend all the fuel you just loaded just to get out of orbit.
        • by eleuthero (812560)
          find a pocket of oxygen in the midst of all the other gases and away you go--seriously, if even a small amount of oxygen were found on any of the gas giants, there would probably be enough for as long as we needed it (64k should be enough for anyone too after all).
  • Titan, has been a particular focus of attention because of its dense, complex atmosphere, its weather and its lakes and oceans.

    It's more than just a bit strange to claim in the title that Titan may have an ocean, and then state in the first line the planet is of particular interest because it has lakes and oceans. Please, editors, it's a (possible) subsurface ocean.

    • by Daetrin (576516)
      After six months of careful study i have determined that the presence of weather, lakes and oceans on Titan indicate that it may in fact have an individual ocean. In the next six months i plan to show that Titan also has an individual lake, followed by showing the existence of an individual cloud. May i have another funding check now please?
  • What's with this "may" stuff? It either does or it does not

    • by Galaga88 (148206)

      It's a Schrodinger's ocean. All quantum-y, you see.

    • by robot256 (1635039)

      LOL, normally on /. we get mad at people for taking one scientific study at face value before it's been reviewed or corroborated. Let me know when you have a probe on Titan to verify the presence of this ocean that we think "may" be there based on limited observational evidence which is not yet strong enough to draw a scientifically rigorous conclusion. Until then, don't muddy the waters by asserting certainty where there is none. If all you want are the "facts" produced by scientific research, then don'

    • by Unkyjar (1148699)

      FTFA:

      "It's also worth pointing out that there is another explanation for Titan's strange moment of inertia. The calculations assume that the moon's orbit is in a steady state but it's also possible that Titan's orbit is changing, perhaps because it has undergone a recent shift due to some large object passing nearby, a comet or asteroid, for example."

  • by russlar (1122455) on Monday April 18, 2011 @11:26AM (#35855860)
    sweet! we can land there!
  • It's not only orbit-locked, but it dances just as good as it wants. Now do the Titan Up.
  • That's no moon

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Monday April 18, 2011 @11:58AM (#35856112) Journal

    (... and not even the ice geysers of Enceladus should sway our choice).

    Why? Because as Professor Peter Ward claims in his very interesting book on astro-biology "Life as we do not know it", only "Titan holds the promise of not just alien life but of MORE THAN ONE KIND OF FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT alien life". (emphasis mine). There could be."three distinct empires of life, from two entirely different trees; CHON life of two kinds (ammono and water CHON life) and silicon life." (p. 234). While he said the "CHON ammono life would be found, presumably beneath the ice, in the ammonia ocean" and the "silicon life would exist, if it existed at all, in the ethane-methane lakes of Titan's surface" he thought the "earthlike" CHON life would be found in the transient freshwater lakes after an asteroid or comet impact.

    Well, if there is a (huge) water ocean beneath the ice (and below the ammonia ocean?) the earthlike CHON life wouldn't have to depend on transient impact events! I guess the reason why the researchers believe the ocean to be water (as opposed to the methane the Technology Review editors seem to think), is because the temperature and pressure at those depths make water the most likely candidate. So anyway to recap, on Titan there are a possibility of THREE COMPLETELY different "empires" (his term) of life with only one of them having even the remotest possibility of being anything like life on earth (even if it is earthlike CHON life, that means only that it uses the carbon and other atoms at energy levels corresponding to liquid water, they might not use DNA, RNA or even proteins!).

    The reasons why (he suggests) we should skip over Mars, Europa (and I presume Enceladus) is as follows: while Mars was certainly once capable of supporting (Earthlike CHON) life, now it is cold, dry and likely dead. For Europa (and Enceladus) he claims that while they have the liquid water necessary to support (again earthlike CHON) life, they don't have enough energy. His calculations show that the gravitational flexing caused by Jupiter, the main source of energy for Europa, would only be enough to drive a modest ecosystem that would be dispersed in an ocean of millions of cubic kilometers of water. Too dilute to be sustainable. (The same would be presumably be true to an even greater extent of Enceledus).

    Titan, on the other hand, is large enough to presumably be able to generate heat internally (it is the largest moon in the solar system) and also gets (some) energy from tidal interactions with Saturn. An interesting additional input is the (weak) ultraviolet rays from the (distant) sun that hits its atmosphere (the only substantial one of any moon) and creates a whole host of organic compounds. Finally if his speculations on the other empires of life are correct, their much colder metabolism may allow (require?) them to exist on much less energy our liquid water based ones do.

    This is, of course, rank speculation but the finding a new empire of life would be truly monumental, it would mean life is likely present in every solar system in the galaxy. Of course even finding "earthlike" CHON life would be astounding. Anyway, if the beauty of Saturn's rings weren't enough, this is another great reason to go back. Besides landing and exploring Titan could be comparatively easy. Aeorobraking, aerocapture and reentry will save a lot of fuel compared with landing on an airless world. Parachutes alone will work extremely well in the dense atmosphere and low gravity (unlike Mars) as will planes and hot "air" balloons. The surface ocean is likely to be very calm so boats and submersibles should be usable. There is also land for rovers and drilling operations. The only problem is distance (and money), so let's get cracking on nuclear powered ion engines!

    • Too bad it would take about a year to get to Titan. The best option would be to find some way to go 10 percent the speed of light like a Fusion rocket engine. Then we could get there in 12 hours (relative to the traveler).
    • Yeah, but Europa also has that weird orange colored water seeping through the ice cracks. That seems like strong enough evidence of something weird going on to investigate. More direct evidence than speculation I mean.

  • by oscartheduck (866357) on Monday April 18, 2011 @12:09PM (#35856194)

    FTFS: "The numbers indicate that Titan's moment of inertia can only be explained if it is a solid body that is denser near the surface than it is at its centre"

    FTFA: "It's also worth pointing out that there is another explanation for Titan's strange moment of inertia. The calculations assume that the moon's orbit is in a steady state but it's also possible that Titan's orbit is changing, perhaps because it has undergone a recent shift due to some large object passing nearby, a comet or asteroid, for example."

  • if it has an ocean its just logical to assume there are sirens too
  • Doesn't gravity dictate that more massive stuff should fall into the core?
  • My wife gave birth to our daughter in a "Surf Titan!" t-shirt, from the Planetary society. Daughter is 16 in August. And no, I don't have pictures.
  • Spirograph?!?!

A sheet of paper is an ink-lined plane. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"

Working...