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Titan Lake Spotted By Cassini

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A moon of the planet Saturn may have a chemical lake near its south pole, based on images returned by the Cassini probe.

There could be a lake of liquid hydrocarbons on Titan. Researchers examining images taken by the Cassini space probe think the 145 mile long by 45 mile wide smooth geographical feature may be the first lake found outside Earth.

“I’d say this is definitely the best candidate we’ve seen so far for a liquid hydrocarbon lake on Titan,” said Dr. Alfred McEwen, Cassini imaging team member and a professor at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

The site resides in Titan’s cloudiest and rainiest place. That rain could be methane falling from the chemical clouds. Smoother terrain features surround the area, much like a shoreline, and contrast with the more ragged terrain elsewhere on the moon.

“This feature is unique in our exploration of Titan so far,” said Dr. Elizabeth Turtle, Cassini imaging team associate. “Its perimeter is intriguingly reminiscent of the shorelines of lakes on Earth that are smoothed by water erosion and deposition.”

“Given Titan’s cold temperatures, it could take a long time for any liquid methane collecting on the surface to evaporate. So it might not be surprising for a methane-filled lake to persist for a long time,” said Cassini imaging team member Dr. Tony DelGenio.

If it is a dried-up lake, the dark spots may be deposits left behind. Or, dark hydrocarbons falling from the atmosphere could be filling a broad depression in the moon’s surface, creating the appearance of a lake.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

Titan Lake Spotted By Cassini
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