Titan Tells More Strange TalesImages
from Cassini are said to reveal
deltas, river channels and now ocean
basins filled with super-cooled
hydrocarbons. Does electricity play
a role on Titan?
Recent data from the Cassini-Huygens mission
has been interpreted to reveal oceans of ethane – in one case occupying an area
as large as 26,000 square kilometers. It is in Titan’s
north polar region that the largest bodies
of “liquid” are supposed to exist.
Cassini-Huygens has been analyzing information from the planet Saturn and its
family of moons for almost four years. One of its primary targets has been
Titan, the largest moon in the solar system and the only one with an atmosphere.
We have written many times in the past about Titan and its bizarre topography,
as well as the electrical connection that it shares with its giant parent’s
Now, based on an analysis of data from 19 separate flybys of Titan, the case for
liquids flowing on the surface is being given greater credence. In fact, the
volume of hydrocarbon precipitates is now being predicted to be far greater than
what was previously reported.
an image centered at 70 degrees north
latitude there are features suggesting a “...coastline and numerous island
groups of a portion of a large sea.”
By comparing surface feature coordinates taken between 2005 and 2007, scientists
found that several of them have moved from their previous positions by as much
as 30 kilometers. Because Cassini’s synthetic aperture radar is able to see
through the normally opaque cloud cover that obscures Titan from optical
instruments, geographical landmarks were mapped and then compared to archived
telemetry from earlier flybys.
The unexpected dislocation is being attributed to the “disconnection” of Titan’s
crust from its core by an intervening layer of liquid that enables the 50
different markers to “slide” around more easily than if they were connected by
solid buttresses. The grid-plotted formations included “river valleys”,
mountains, canyons and other terrain that would normally be slow to change in
just two years of observation.
NASA researcher Bryan Stiles, from the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, wrote:
"We believe that about 100 kilometers (62 miles) beneath the ice and
organic-rich surface is an internal ocean of liquid water mixed with ammonia."
But is the interpretation of radar telemetry accurate in this case? Could the
movement of river valleys and canyons be something else entirely?
previous Picture of the Day it was noted
flowing methane (or ethane) has never been
found on Titan and that the entire line of reasoning follows from an assumption
without foundation. The so-called “river valleys” on Titan do not look as if
they were carved-out by flowing liquids.
We predicted then that a close examination
of the images would demonstrate that the channels go uphill and downhill – not
like the action of a moving stream that would always be downhill. In reality
what we see on Titan are examples of “sinuous rilles” and are the result of
Titan is an electrically charged body that is constantly bombarded by an intense
ionic storm from Saturn. It shares many characteristics with its cousin moons,
Europa, that orbit the planet Jupiter: a
particle fountain from its poles, a toroid of charged particles in a sheath and
exchanges of massive electric charge.
In the Picture of the Day about the volcanoes on Io, the fact that the calderas
of several “hot spots” moved by several kilometers in a few short months was
attributed to the plasma beams that complete an electric circuit with the moon
and Jupiter. It is the points where plasma discharges from Jupiter
touchdown on Io that are glowing with such
intensity. Similar electrical phenomena could be influencing Titan’s geology.
Polar banding suggests that streams of
charged particles are circling the planet-sized moon very much like electrons
and positive ions circle the Earth in opposite directions. In other words, there
is a plasma ring surrounding Titan that is influencing its geology and its
Electric Universe theorist
Wal Thornhill wrote:
“The idea that Titan may have a
considerable amount of low density
liquids or ices came originally from
calculations of its density.
However, estimates of the
composition of celestial bodies
assume that we understand the real
nature of gravity. We obviously
don't. So there is no reason to
assume that the gravitational
constant, 'G,' is the same for all
bodies in the universe,
particularly when it is the most
elusive 'constant' to measure on
Earth. So we cannot be confident
about the calculated ratio of rock
to ices on Titan. But the presence
of methane in Titan's atmosphere
seemed to require an ocean of liquid
hydrocarbons as a reservoir that
could provide a source of that gas
lasting for the conventional age of
the solar system. The radar image
(above) of Titan fits more closely
with some of those returned by the
Magellan Orbiter from dry and rocky
Venus. The methane puzzle has not
By Stephen Smith
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