Saturn's moon Titan hosts liquid lakes and rivers

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Thursday, January 4, 2007

This colorized radar view from Cassini shows lakes on Titan. Color intensity is proportional to how much radar brightness is returned.

The Cassini Spacecraft has taken images from July 22, 2006 that show rivers and lakes present on Saturn's moon Titan.

"At the time we first announced it, we were like, 'Well, we think these are probably lakes,’ but that was about our level of confidence. I would say at this point, we've analyzed the data to the extent that we feel very confident that they are liquid-filled lakes," said University College London and Caltech and Cassini team member, Ellen Stofan.

The rivers and lakes are likely to contain ethane or methane in a liquid form, but the liquids are said to "act like water" and are "clear" like water. Both ethane and methane are organic gases on Earth.

"Dark surfaces are smooth and most likely liquid, rock, ice or organics. More than 75 radar-dark patches or lakes were seen, ranging from 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) to more than 70 kilometers (43 miles) across. Some lakes appear partly dry, while others seem liquid-filled. Some of the partly filled lakes may never have filled fully, or may have partly evaporated at some point in the past. The dry lakes have margins or rims and a radar brightness similar to the rest of the surrounding terrain, making them appear devoid of liquid," said a statement by NASA on their website.

"It's going to behave like water. It's transparent just the way water is. So if you were standing by the shoreline, you would be able to see down to whatever pebbles or gunk that was on the bottom. As far as we know, there is only one planetary body that displays more dynamism than Titan, and its name is Earth," added Stofan.

Cassini will be performing at least 22 more flybys of Titan. The next flyby is expected to take place this month.