Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Titan's Ontario Lacus Really is Wet

UA camera shows large hydrocarbon lake is truly wet

Scientists have confirmed that at least one body in our solar system, other than Earth, has a surface liquid lake.

Using an instrument on NASA's Cassini orbiter, they discovered that a lake-like feature in the south polar region of Saturn's moon, Titan, is truly wet. The lake is about 235 kilometers, or 150 miles, long.

The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, or VIMS, an instrument run from The University Arizona, identifies the chemical composition of objects by the way matter reflects light.

When VIMS observed the lake, named Ontario Lacus, it detected ethane, a simple hydrocarbon that Titan experts have long been searching for. The ethane is in liquid solution with methane, nitrogen and other low-molecular weight hydrocarbons.

"This is the first observation that really pins down that Titan has a surface lake filled with liquid," VIMS principal investigator and professor Robert H. Brown of UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory said. Brown and his team report their results in the July 31 issue of the journal Nature.

"Detection of liquid ethane in Ontario Lacus confirms a long-held idea that lakes and seas filled with methane and ethane exist on Titan," said Larry Soderblom of the U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Ariz.


very kewl. I would hope that we would make exploring the polar lakes and seas of Titan a major space exploration goal under the next administration. (*hint*hint* Noel). Balloons or boats are recommended.

1 comment:

Noel Maurer said...

Er, why me, again?