Saturn moon Titan has lakes and oceans which could support alien life


Petrol-like liquids flow over the rocky landscape, at times as deep as 100 meters, data obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft showed.

Because of Titan’s complex chemistry, scientists suspect it could harbour life, particularly in its underground ocean of water.

But it is also theorised by some scientists that alien life on Titan might use methane, not water, as its vital ingredient.

Titan and Earth are the only two places in the solar system with standing bodies of liquid on the surface – extremely rare in space.

“It has lakes, canyons, rivers, dune fields of organic sand particles about the same size as silica sand grains on Earth”

Shannon MacKenzie

“Titan is the most Earth-like body in the solar system,” Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory planetary scientist Shannon MacKenzie said.

“It has lakes, canyons, rivers, dune fields of organic sand particles about the same size as silica sand grains on Earth,” he added.

Titan, with a diameter of 3,200 miles, is bigger than Mercury and is the solar system’s second-largest moon, behind only Jupiter’s Ganymede.

Researchers described landforms akin to mesas towering above the nearby landscape, topped with liquid lakes comprised mainly of methane.

The scientists suspect the lakes formed when surrounding bedrock chemically dissolved and collapsed, a process that occurs with a certain type of lake on Earth.

The scientists also described “phantom lakes” that during wintertime appeared to be wide but shallow ponds – perhaps only a few inches deep – but evaporated or drained into the surface by springtime, a process taking seven years on Titan.

The findings represented further evidence about Titan’s hydrological cycle, with liquid hydrocarbons raining down from clouds, flowing across its surface and evaporating back into the sky – comparable to Earth’s water cycle.

“Titan is a very fascinating object in the solar system, and every time we look carefully at the data we find out something new,” California Institute of Technology planetary scientist Marco Mastrogiuseppe said.

The research was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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Source:: Daily times

      

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