free debate

December 18, 2009

A Glimpse of Lakes on Titan

Imagine a world so cold that temperatures like -270 Fahrenheit are not uncommon.Water acts more like rock, and a thick orange atmosphere looms overhead. Instead of water carving up the landscape, you have methane. This is Saturn's moon Titan.

This image is of sunlight bouncing of the lake Kraken Mare taken by the Cassini spacecraft. This lake of liquid methane is larger than the Caspian Sea here on Earth. Titan is a fascinating world because of how it compares to the Earth. “These results remind us how unique Titan is in the solar system,” said Ralf Jaumann, a visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team member on Cassini. “But they also show us that liquid has a universal power to shape geological surfaces in the same way, no matter what the liquid is.”

There has been building evidence for lakes on Titan even before Cassini arrived at Titan. This picture is a elegant piece of evidence confirming those weird lakes. “This one image communicates so much about Titan -- thick atmosphere, surface lakes and an otherworldliness,” said Bob Pappalardo, Cassini project scientist, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “It’s an unsettling combination of strangeness yet similarity to Earth. This picture is one of Cassini’s iconic images.”

Titan is one of the most exciting places in the solar system to explore. I think this just gives a taste of what awaits us.

For more information: Cassini Homepage
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/DLR