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Beyond Earthly Skies

A River on Titan

24 May 2013, 10:43 UTC
A River on Titan
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

If viewed in black and white, it could be Earth,with river deltas, shores and sculpted rock.But sands in endless dunes round half its girth,are ever- frozen grains of ice which flock,enslaved by Saturn’s tidal-driven winds.Revealed in filtered amber twilight haze,the similarity to Earth rescinds.- Diane Hine, On Saturn’s Moon (16 April 2012)Titan is the only other world in the solar system that has stable bodies of liquid on its surface. With a surface temperature of minus 180 degrees Centigrade, Titan is so cold that water is frozen solid and as hard as a rock. Instead, the liquid that fills its lakes and flows in its rivers is a mixture of ethane and methane. It is a challenge to image Titan because its surface is shrouded under a thick and opaque atmosphere. As a result, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft uses radar to map Titan’s surface by bouncing pulses of microwave energy off the surface of Titan and measuring the time it takes for the pulses to return to the spacecraft. Essentially, the radar instrument on Cassini “sees” the surface of Titan using microwaves instead of visible light.Figure 1: The colourful globe of Titan passes in front of Saturn and its rings in ...

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