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A New Map of Titan’s Lakes

19 Dec 2013, 17:22 UTC
A New Map of Titan’s Lakes
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Ligeia Mare, one of the largest methane lakes on Saturn's moon, has about twice the volume of Lake Michigan.

The lakes in Titan’s northern hemisphere (see a larger version here). Image: NASA/ JPL/ ASI/ USGS
Stunning new maps of the lakes on Saturn’s moon Titan were revealed at last week’s American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco by Randy Kirk of the U.S. Geological Survey. Ligeia Mare, one of the largest of the hydrocarbon lakes on Titan, is much deeper than originally thought, holding about twice the volume of Lake Michigan. A new radar survey by the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft showed a depth of about 160-170 meters, compared to previous estimates of about 10 meters. Also, the edges of the lake appear straight, suggesting a fracture-controlled setting, similar to Lake Superior, another lake in the American Midwest.
The liquid in Ligeia Mare is mostly methane, but the hydrocarbon mixture also contains ethane and some heavier hydrocarbon compounds, plus some nitrogen. The lake would have been the target of the Titan Mare Explorer, a proposed NASA Discovery mission with a lander to investigate the chemical composition of the hydrocarbon lake (among other objectives). Unfortunately, it was not funded.
Kraken Mare, another ...

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