Scientists discover liquid methane lake on the tropical side of Saturn’s moon Titan

Jun 14, 2012
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Scientists have long wondered what process drives the replenishing of the lakes of liquid methane on the surface of Saturn's largest moon Titan. Scientists have a keen interest in Titan because it's often likened to a primordial Earth. Using a mosaic of images recorded by the Huygens probe's imager/spectral radiometer overlaid with images taken by the Cassini spacecraft in 2005, scientists have discovered a lake of liquid methane in a strange place on Titan.

The discovery of this large, shallow methane lake in the moon's tropical region has offered scientists insights at the process driving the creation of liquid methane lakes. The scientists say if they can confirm more observations about the lake, it could point to significant subsurface methane deposits feeding the lake in the tropical the climate. Another possibility according to the scientists is that the moon recycles methane with the liquid in previously discovered polar methane lakes migrating underground back to the tropical zone of the moon where it bubbles to the surface again to form lakes.

Scientists say that this represents a significant discovery that may shed light on the methane cycle on Titan. Scientists say that surface deposits of liquid methane on Titan aren't sufficient to fully support the moon's methane cycle. Therefore, some unknown process has to be supplying methane over the 4.5 billion year history of Titan sunlight would've broken down the methane into its components, carbon and hydrogen. Previous studies of the moon's climate indicated that any liquid on its tropical surface would quickly evaporate, so this new discovery could invalidate what scientists previously believed about Titan.

[via CSMonitor]


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