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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

cassini reveals lake-like feature on titan

The Cassini orbiter recently took the above photograph, which may be a current or past lake of methane. From this article at PhysOrg.com.
"I'd say this is definitely the best candidate we've seen so far for a liquid hydrocarbon lake on Titan," said Dr. Alfred McEwen, Cassini imaging team member and a professor at the University of Arizona, Tucson. The suspected lake area measures 145 miles long by 45 miles wide, about the size of Lake Ontario, on the U.S. Canadian border.

"This feature is unique in our exploration of Titan so far," said Dr. Elizabeth Turtle, Cassini imaging team associate at the University of Arizona. "Its perimeter is intriguingly reminiscent of the shorelines of lakes on Earth that are smoothed by water erosion and deposition," she added.

The feature lies in Titan's cloudiest region, which is presumably the most likely site of recent methane rainfall. This, coupled with the shore-like smoothness of the feature's perimeter makes it hard for scientists to resist speculation about what might be filling the lake, if it indeed is one.

"It's possible that some of the storms in this region are strong enough to make methane rain that reaches the surface," said Cassini imaging team member Dr. Tony DelGenio of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

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