NASA’s Cassini spacecraft was retired earlier this year, but the probe managed to collect a large amount of data before it disappeared into the atmosphere of Saturn. During the last flyby around Titan, the spacecraft managed to collect radar data which infers that the small liquid lakes which are present in the northern hemisphere of the Saturn’s largest moon are more profound than it was thought at first, and the liquid in them is in fact methane.
The new data confirms that some of the lakes have a depth of over 100 meters (or 300 feet). Liquid methane falls on the surface as rain. After it evaporates, it will rain again, making Titan the only celestial object besides Earth to feature a stable liquid circuit. Some researchers believed that the hydrologic cycle is similar to the one found on Earth in our planet’s early history.
The only significant difference is represented by the fact that Titan has no water, but it possesses ethane and methane lakes. These are often found in the gaseous state on Earth, but the cold temperatures found on Titan force them to become liquid.
The largest moon of Saturn, Titan, has liquid lakes of both ethane and methane
Past research revealed that many of the northern liquid lakes on Titan are filled with ethane, but they were surprised when they learned that the lakes are also filled with methane. During a survey the probe focused on the Ontario Lacus, the only major lake encountered in the southern hemisphere and found a mixture of ethane and methane which was almost equal. Methane tends to be a little lighter in comparison to ethane whose composition features more carbon and hydrogen atoms.
Each discovery leads to new questions according to one of the researchers involved in the project. The data available at this point can answer some of them since the researchers learned more about the hydrology of the moon. The hydrology patterns encountered in one hemisphere are entirely different from the ones found in the other one, a quite exciting trait.
More information will be offered in the future as researches continue to analyze the data provided by NASA’s Cassini probe.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.