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NASA Space Science

NASA Picks Up Rainstorms On Titan 110

RedEaredSlider writes "Rainy seasons aren't just a regular occurrence on Earth — they also happen on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. The rain isn't water, it's methane. And the seasons are years long, as Titan takes two weeks to go around Saturn and Saturn takes 29 years to complete one circuit of the Sun. Recent images from the Cassini probe, which is currently orbiting Saturn, show clouds forming in Titan's atmosphere and evidence that liquid methane is soaking the surface."
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NASA Picks Up Rainstorms On Titan

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  • Re:Years long... (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Great Pretender ( 975978 ) on Monday March 21, 2011 @03:05AM (#35556748)
    Caveat - I am not an astronomer. Actually, I agree with the original poster the article is confusing. I believe that they swap the point of reference without announcing they did. While the initial units are in Earth years: "as Titan takes two weeks to go around Saturn and Saturn takes 29 years to complete one circuit of the Sun." They then move to either the Saturn or Titan point of reference, as it would make no sense comparing Earths 'time of year' to a warming period for Titan "McEwan says the atmospheric models predicted that there would be clouds in the equatorial regions at this time of year, as the sun on Titan got warmer. "We saw these clouds suddenly, and then we saw the equatorial area darken," he said." As the warming period for Titan must be associated to Saturns position relative to the Sun I can only assume that this second seasonal reference is based on Staurns orbital year. Which would then also explain why the article claims the seasons are 'years long' as it is talking about Saturn seasons in Earth years.
  • Re:Years long... (Score:5, Informative)

    by pspahn ( 1175617 ) on Monday March 21, 2011 @03:33AM (#35556842)

    As far as I'm aware, the evolutionary effects on circadian rhythms on other planetary bodies is a study that has not yet been conducted.

    I guess that means the answer to your question is.... maybe.

  • Re:God farts? (Score:4, Informative)

    by EdIII ( 1114411 ) on Monday March 21, 2011 @04:08AM (#35556970)

    Methane is not exclusively produced by biological organisms anymore than oxygen is exclusively produced by plants and trees. The process by which methane is thought to be produced on other planets, moons, etc. is abiotic.

    Furthermore, only 1-10% of a fart is methane. Interestingly enough, that is not the part that smells bad. It is the trace gases that give it the smell.

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Monday March 21, 2011 @06:32AM (#35557412) Homepage Journal

    It strikes me as odd that a celestial body can be drenched in hydrocarbons like that yet no fire. Here on earth all it takes is dry conditions for a few weeks and fires pop up all over. How can Titan be a ball of flammable substances which remains unlit?

    To burn you need fuel and oxidiser. The atmosphere on Titan is like the inside of a Nitrogen fire extinguisher. Any oxygen on Titan long ago combined with hydrogen to make water. There is a lot of water on Titan. The planet is actually made of the stuff. Having said that I wonder if oxygen or another oxidiser could have survived under ground where the Methane can't get at it. Such fossil fuels could lead to the return of the internal combustion engine, but this time in the outer solar system.

  • 2 things:

    1. pure science for the sake of pure science always eventually winds up making incredible discoveries that alter history and result in trillions of dollars of economic activity. that's why worrying about "no practical reason" is silly: it just means the person raising the issue doesn't understand science or history

    2. mining hydrocarbons on titan, and taking them somewhere else: anywhere, even just another moon of saturn, is completely ridiculous. its like flying from LA to Hong Kong to get your lunch time sandwich. you need an oxidizer too

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