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Astronomers are surprised to find deep methane lakes on methane



  Titan Methane Lakes pia18432 16 1
This near infrared color view of Cassini shows the sun glistening in front of the northern polar seas of Titan. NASA / JPL-Caltech / Univ. Arizona / Univ. Idaho

In the two years since the Cassini probe completed its mission and burned in the rings of Saturn, data from their recordings are still being analyzed and astronomers are making startling results. Recent research based on the Cassini data has shown that Saturn's largest moon, Titan, houses deep, liquid methane lakes.

Astronomers used radar data to test the depth of the lakes in the northern hemisphere of Titan. They discovered that some were more than 1

00 meters deep, making Titan the only body in our solar system with a stable liquid on its surface.

While here on earth the liquid in question is water, on titanium it is methane and ethane. These two hydrocarbons are gases on Earth at regular pressure, but titanium is so cold that the two hydrocarbons behave as liquids there. This means that Titan has its own cycle of evaporation and rain that resembles our water cycle.

Although it was known that Titan has large northern methane seas, it was also unexpected to find methane in lakes.

"Every time we make discoveries on titanium, titanium is becoming more and more mysterious," said lead author Marco Mastrogiuseppe, Cassini radar scientist at Caltech in Pasadena, California, in a statement. "However, these new measurements help answer some important questions. We can now better understand the hydrology of titanium.

It is strange that there is so much fluid on one side of the northern hemisphere, but not on the other. The east side of the hemisphere has large seas, while the west side was small lakes. "It's like looking down on the Earth's North Pole and seeing North America have a completely different geologic environment for liquid bodies than Asia," said scientist and co-author Jonathan Lunine of Cassini at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. said in the statement.

It could be that the lakes formed when the rocks surrounded themselves with ice and other chemical substances and collapsed. And the lakes can be affected by seasonal variations in surface fluid.

The data used for these discoveries was one of the last Cassini had collected on Titan's last flyby. This makes it a fitting tribute to a probe that has taught us so much about Saturn and its moons. "This was Cassini's last hurray on Titan, and it really was a feat," Lunine said.








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