Wed11 Cassini Sees Tropical Lakes on Saturn Moon+NASA
's Cassini spacecraft has spied long-standing methane lakes, or puddles, in the “tropics” of Saturn’s moon Titan. One of the tropical lakes appears to be about half the size of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, with a depth of at least 3 feet (1 meter).
The result, which is a new analysis of Cassini data, is unexpected because models had assumed the long-standing bodies of liquid would only exist at the poles. The findings appear in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.
Where could the liquid for these lakes come from? “A likely supplier is an underground aquifer,” said Caitlin Griffith, the paper’s lead author and a Cassini team associate at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “In essence, Titan may have oases.”
Understanding how lakes or wetlands form on Titan helps scientists learn about the moon’s weather. Like Earth’s hydrological cycle, Titan has a “methane” cycle, with methane rather than water circulating. In Titan’s atmosphere, ultraviolet light breaks apart methane, initiating a chain of complicated organic chemical reactions. But existing models haven’t been able to account for the abundant supply of methane.
full release - http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/newsreleases/newsrelease20120613/
More on Titan - http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/science/index.cfm?SciencePageID=73
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the +European Space Agency, ESA
and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/cassini