Author Topic: Scientists Discover Waves On Titan's Methane Lakes  (Read 1210 times)

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Offline mayya

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Scientists Discover Waves On Titan's Methane Lakes
« on: March 25, 2014, 10:51:03 AM »
Scientists Discover Waves On Titan's Methane Lakes
By Shawn Raymundo
First Posted: Mar 24, 2014 03:30 PM EDT


Layers of haze covering Saturn's satellite Titan are seen in this image taken by Voyager 1 on Nov. 12, 1980 at a range of 22,000 kilometers (13,700 miles). (Photo : By NASA ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
The Saturn moon Titan is one of the most peculiar places in the solar system as it is the only planetoid besides earth to be carrying stable bodies of liquid on its surface -- although that liquid is comprised of methane and ethane.
Although, technically a moon, and Saturn's largest moon at that, scientists often refer to Titan as a planet-like moon and last week, NASA scientists, using the Cassini spacecraft, discovered hints of waves, similar to Earth's ocean waves, splashing about, the Los Angeles Times reported.

This incident marks the first time scientists and astronomers have discovered waves on a planet outside of our own. Titan, which is the second largest moon in the solar system, after the Jupiter moon Ganymede, has had scientists theorizing for many years, now, that it can host some form of life.

Titan's atmosphere is made up of mostly nitrogen and scientists have been trying to figure out more about its atmospheric dynamics by tracking wind and wave patterns but because methane is viscous it would be difficult for wind to move the thick liquid around.

Researchers, fearing that they were just missing the waves at the wrong time, theorized that Titan would produce stronger winds in the north during its spring season, according to the Times.

Because Saturn's revolution around the Sun is as long as 29 Earth years, researchers have had to wait until 2012 to observe the possible winds and waves. Scientists used the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer on Cassini to stare at Titan's northern lakes.

What they viewed on the lake Punga Mare were "four distinct pixels" in the light that pointed out some roughness on the liquid surface. The researchers said that while there's a possibility what they saw were liquid-covered mudflats they believe their best-fit model revealed actual waves.

"If correct," the researchers wrote in their study, "this discovery represents the first sea-surface waves known outside of Earth."

According to the Times, the authors wrote that the waves found on Titan are roughly 2 centimeters high.