Cassini Saw Deep Methane Lakes on Titan

NASA Mosaic image of Titan based on infrared observations of the Cassini probe

In addition to the Earth, Titan is the only known celestial body in the solar system, on the surface of which there are liquid seas and lakes. True, unlike earthly ones, the latter consist of methane and ethane; the temperature of these seas and rivers, according to scientists, is very low and is approximately minus 170-180 degrees Celsius.

In a recent study, experts examined the data collected by the Cassini probe (more precisely, its RADAR, Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) and Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) instruments) for 13 years, with the aim of exploring three lakes in the northern hemisphere Titanium. The device saw the lake’s data in winter, and failed to detect them in spring: apparently, as the researchers say, these “phantom” shallow lakes evaporate or hide under the surface of Titan in seven years, during which the satellite transitions from winter to spring (year on Titan lasts 29.5 years on Earth).

In another new study, scientists also analyzed Cassini data - collected by the probe as part of the last close approach to the satellite in April 2017 (Cassini burned out in Saturn’s atmosphere in September 2017): as part of this approach, the device saw seven lakes with large depth - more than 100 meters. It is reported that these lakes consist mainly of methane, which differs from the only large lake in the southern hemisphere of the Ontario Lacus satellite, in which ethane predominates. Researchers believe that these lakes are thousands of years old and at the same time they increase in volume, due to the fact that the influx of hydrocarbons as a result of rains exceeds their outflow through the soil.

Both new works were published in the journal Nature Astronomy (1, 2).

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