Methane Lakes on Titan?
NASA scientist believe they see
“lakes of methane” on Saturn’s moon Titan, but electrical
theorists suggest another possibility.
Since posting our Picture
of the Day on July 30, more than one reader has wondered
if we’ve seen recent announcements by NASA of “methane
lakes” on Titan. We certainly have, and it is a good
opportunity to test the predictive ability of two starkly
From a NASA news
release: “The Cassini spacecraft, using its radar system,
has discovered very strong evidence for hydrocarbon lakes on
Titan. Dark patches, which resemble terrestrial lakes, seem
to be sprinkled all over the high latitudes surrounding
Titan's north pole.”
investigators have also noted that sinuous channels or
“riverbeds” appear to feed into the presumed methane lakes,
giving the appearance of consistency to the interpretation.
considerations can hardly be ignored. Every observed “river”
on Titan is dry. All of the channels have exposed floors.
There is no evidence of any liquid flowing into the flat
dark areas. In fact, the situation is not unlike the
darkened “mares” of our own moon into which “flow” empty
sinuous rilles. Acknowledging the absence of flowing
methane on Titan at this time, NASA investigators have
suggested that a “cycle” of methane downpours and surface
droughts must occur on the moon. "The lakes are presumably
filled by rainfall, perhaps by seasonal storms, and then
evaporate slowly to replenish the atmosphere and complete
Titan's methane cycle."
But as noted by Mel Acheson, NASA’s “big problem is
explaining the loss of atmospheric methane to space. Early
speculations were of methane volcanoes to bring up vast
underground supplies”—a process claimed to have been
underway for eons to maintain the necessary atmospheric
Acheson points out that a methane rain cycle just takes
existing methane around a phase-shift circle (vapor to
liquid to vapor). That's pretty much the entire meaning of
"cycle". Cycling doesn't produce "new" methane to replenish
any loss. A loss is a loss: there is less methane to cycle.
They need to speculate that the lakes are fed by underground
springs, or some such mechanism. But no such volcanoes have
been observed, leading NASA theorists to suppose that this
phase of “activity” is “temporarily” quiescent.
As Acheson comments, “the attraction of ‘underground’
anything is that it can't be tested—so the search for an
explanation is shifted from empirical ground to a ground of
Electrical theorist Wallace Thornhill offers an
interpretation easily contrasted with that of NASA
scientists: “The radar images show flat-floored depressions
with circular scalloped edges, typical of arc machining of
the surface. I would compare them directly to the scalloped
scarring on Jupiter’s moon Io and the flat, melted floor
depressions that result. Such floors would be expected to
give a dark radar return.”
The fact that the "lakes" have only been discovered in the
polar region and are associated with empty sinuous "rilles"
and fulgurite-like dunes also suggests an electrical origin
through powerful auroral currents sometime in the past,
according to Thornhill.
It is worth noting here that Thornhill challenged the
standard interpretation of Io and its “volcanos” prior to
the arrival of the Galileo probe. His predictions were very
specific and clearly contrary to NASA’s expectations. Then
close-up images of Io’s confirmed the
predictions.Today Thornhill’s predictions with respect
to the supposed “methane lakes” on Titan and related surface
features could provide an equally compelling test.
COMING AUGUST 4:
Predictions Concerning Titan’s Methane
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