Friday, December 18, 2009

Titan's Lake Shines

The picture's not spectacular, but what that little shine at the top means is pretty significant. It's sunlight glinting off what's likely a lake of liquid methane or ethane on the surface of Titan. You can read more about it here.
"This is the first time outside Earth we've seen specular reflection from another liquid from another body," said Ralf Jaumann, a scientist analyzing data from the Cassini unmanned space probe.

Jaumann said he was surprised when he first saw the photos transmitting from Cassini, orbiting Saturn about a billion miles from Earth.

"It was great because if you look at photos of planets, you mostly see nothing is happening. But in two hours we saw a glint of light getting brighter."
What's cool about this is not that Titan is suddenly a little bit more earth-like -- because it isn't; it may have an atmosphere and liquid on the surface, but that's where the major similarities end. What's cool about this is that Arthur C. Clarke may be proved right, as he wrote about liquid lakes of methane or ethane, featuring fantastic icebergs of ammonia and other substances, on the moon. I like it when nature imitates art.

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