Scientists find new surprises about Titan’s lakes

earthsky.org | 4/23/2019 | Paul Scott Anderson
Click For Photo: https://en.es-static.us/upl/2019/04/Titan_seas_lakes_Cassini_2014-300x300.jpg

Infrared view of seas and lakes in Titan’s northern hemisphere, taken by Cassini in 2014. Sunlight can be seen glinting off the southern part of Titan’s largest sea, Kraken Mare. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho.

Saturn’s largest moon Titan is the only world in our solar system besides Earth known to have bodies of liquid on its surface. Scientists announced definitive evidence for them in 2007, based on data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The large ones are known as maria (seas) and the small ones as lacus (lakes). It’s now known that Titan’s hydrologic cycle is surprisingly similar to Earth’s, with one big exception: the liquid on Titan is liquid methane/ethane instead of water, due to the extreme cold. The moon’s northern hemisphere, in particular, has dozens of smaller lakes near its pole, and now scientists have found that they are surprisingly deep and sit on the tops of hills and mesas. These observations come from data collected during the last close flyby of Titan during the Cassini mission, which ended in 2017.

Findings - April - Nature - Astronomy

The new peer-reviewed findings were published on April 15, 2019, in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Scientists had thought that the lakes would be an almost equal mixture of methane and ethane, like the larger seas. This is the case with the one sizable lake in the southern hemisphere called Ontario Lacus. But to their surprise, they found that the lakes in the northern hemisphere are composed almost entirely of methane. As lead author Marco Mastrogiuseppe, a Cassini radar scientist at Caltech, explained:

Time - Discoveries - Titan - Titan - Measurements

Every time we make discoveries on Titan, Titan becomes more and more mysterious. But these new measurements help give an answer to a few key questions. We can actually now better understand the hydrology of Titan.

Map of Titan’s seas and lakes in the northern hemisphere. Image via...
(Excerpt) Read more at: earthsky.org
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