Cassini Explores a Methane Sea on Titan


From NASA News

Fast Facts:

› A new study finds that a large sea on Saturn’s moon Titan is composed mostly of pure liquid methane, independently confirming an earlier result.

› The seabed may be covered in a sludge of carbon- and nitrogen-rich material, and its shores may be surrounded by wetlands.

Of the hundreds of moons in our solar system, Titan is the only one with a dense atmosphere and large liquid reservoirs on its surface, making it in some ways more like a terrestrial planet.

Both Earth and Titan have nitrogen-dominated atmospheres — over 95 percent nitrogen in Titan’s case. However, unlike Earth, Titan has very little oxygen; the rest of the atmosphere is mostly methane and trace amounts of other gases, including ethane. And at the frigid temperatures found at Saturn’s great distance from the sun, the methane and ethane can exist on the surface in liquid form.

For this reason, scientists had long speculated about the possible existence of hydrocarbon lakes and seas on Titan, and data from the NASA/ESA Cassini-Huygens mission does not disappoint. Since arriving in the Saturn system in 2004, the Cassini spacecraft has revealed that more than 620,000 square miles (1.6 million square kilometers) of Titan’s surface — almost two percent of the total — are covered in liquid.

For the complete article, click here.

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