A Glint in a Titan’s Eye

This beautiful picture holds more than aesthetic value for NASA scientists.

Scientists waited to see if they could pick up the reflection of the sun on the surface liquid and were rewarded with this extraordinary picture.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft photographed a flash of sunlight reflecting from a lake on Saturn’s moon Titan, confirming the presence of liquid hydrocarbons. It has long been theorized that Saturn’s largest moon hosts seas or lakes of liquid hydrocarbons — making it unique thus far among planets or moons. Titan is viewed as having many similarities with Earth. They also found fog, here.

It may have competition, however. Nature magazine is reporting that scientists have found a new Earth-like planet could be a “super Earth” about 42 light years away in another solar system. It is roughly 2.7 times larger than Earth and currently called GJ 1214b. Scientists believe it “is composed of about three-fourths water and other ices and one fourth-rock.” You may want to wait on the condo timeshare offers. The temperature is estimated at between 280 and 120 degrees Celsius (536 and 248 degrees Fahrenheit). For the Nature story, click here

For the story, click here.

17 thoughts on “A Glint in a Titan’s Eye”

  1. Renewable or not isn’t the issue. There is also no logic that says just because hydrocarbons originate in stars means there is an infinite supply on Earth. Replenishment is a theory, one with very little evidence to support it. It’s mostly wishful thinking on the part of the oil industry, which, by the way, has been the check paying for pro-replenishment research. The is reality os probably a combination of effects – naturally occurring hydrocarbon chains all other interactions plus carbon that would indeed be freed by dying organisms. Carbon isn’t just stellar nuclear waste, it’s a human waste by-product as well as a waste product of all life on this planet. Oil does come from it. Just not all of it. The issue isn’t where the oil comes from or how long it will last. What free carbon does to everything around it is the issue. Carbon is a chemical whore that bonds with ANYTHING. Just look at a periodic table and the 8 open bonding points on a carbon atom and tell me that’s not an ecological nightmare. You can say it, but you’ll sound silly. Bottom line is oil-free energy isn’t the issue.

    Carbon free energy is the issue.

    That’s a problem we can crack too if the Big Oil Machine didn’t insist on screwing with the global economy so a bunch of desert nomad barbarians in Saudi Arabia can maintain that illusion of power they have once their oil IS gone. And by all expert opinion, it’s almost gone now. If America were to crack the cheap hydrogen problem? Which we could make no mistake if our resources weren’t busy running corporate errands. Saudi influence in both the region and the world would vanish over night. No one likes dealing with those skeevy bastards. And once they had no more money to fuel terrorism? The region would eventually calm – just not before all the people the Saudis have been screwing with for 50 years coming for the pound of flesh due. So what we have here is a political problem caused by a segment of our leadershit being in the pockets of Big Oil and the Saudi’s business partners.

    Just like providing REAL heath care to every American – not this bullshit sandiwch the Senate is trying to sell – is a political problem caused by Insurance and Pharma graft. Every American should have the EXACT coverage as the Senate gets. End of f’ing story. Ah ah ah! NO ROOM FOR DEBATE. So don’t even try. Any response in defense of less than this for citizens? Bullshit. 100%. And elitist profiteering bullshit too. And a bullshit sandwich that only has bullshit on part of it is still bullshit sandwich.

    The biggest problem America faces isn’t a shortage of oil or viable alternatives. The biggest problem we have is that just about everyone on the Hill regardless of party is on the take. They just bark for different corporate masters. Our biggest shortage is in honest leadership that will take corporations to task – something the government CAN do . . . unless robbed of the will to do so by graft pretending to be the Right to Petition, a right which – ha ha – our Founding Fathers only meant to apply to REAL PEOPLE NOT LEGAL FICTIONS.

    Our problem isn’t oil. It’s fascism.

  2. hidflect:

    interesting, I dont believe in biologic origins either. Unless of course hydrocarbons are the precursor to life on earth.

    Oil/hydrocarbons are in limited supply but if the entire earth has a core of hydrocarbons it is for all practical purposes unlimited.

    I have even read that wells in LA (the state) and Saudi Arabia refill over time.

  3. Thank you, Buddha Is Laughing. You’re halfway there. Our own oil is abiotic (not from fossils). But if you present that view in public, scientists will scream you off the forum, mostly by tring to belittle your lack of accreditation. Another example of how much of science is becoming the papacy it had sought to eliminate. One thing though, it’s said many people who believe in the abiotic theory say that oil is renewable. I think this is a false flag to discredit the abiotic crowd. The Himalayas are abiotic but they’re not renewable either. Anyways, it’s fairly obvious little sea creatures did not create the 100’s of billions of barrels of oil (and what about the gas?) miles below the surface. That is not so controversial. What IS controversial is how reasonable debate is mot possible with readers of the New Scientist to the extent now that posts in favour of it are pulled down without explanation.

  4. Story reads a bit confusing. The lakes of methane on Titan only exist because the moon is EXTREMELY cold, making it possible for what is a gas on our planet to exist as a liquid there.

    The “super-earth” in a nearby galaxy is the planet with extremely high temps, making any stable liquids other than heavy elements unlikely.

    Slightly related is this video by the American Museum of Natural History: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17jymDn0W6U&feature=player_embedded

    Makes me wonder what is beyond our ‘cosmic horizon.’

  5. Buddha:

    my son gave me a short course in astrophysics today. He had to write a program to figure out some of the properties of a star, mass, luminosity, pressure, ect. Pretty interesting stuff.

    No wonder a fusion reactor is so hard to figure out. The pressure inside a star is tremendous.

  6. Byron,

    Not all hydrocarbons come from dinosaurs. Carbon doesn’t come from life, buddy. Carbon comes from stars. Carbon is one of the last fusion elements before a start starts trying to burn neon, oxygen, silicon and eventually iron (and that is the end of a star as iron doesn’t like to go to fusion or fission). In fact there is a name for a star that has accumulated an iron core – they are called Wolf-Reyet (sp?) stars.

    Life comes from carbon, not the other way around.

    Because it has 8 open electron positions it is very friendly to forming covalent bonds with other things and making compounds. Itss a friendly element, so much so I once had a chem instructor call carbon “the whore of atoms”. Some of these compounds combine, grow in complexity and chemical interaction with other elements in the environment. And viola! You have a planet with carbon based life. But the carbon all came from star dust, not dinosaurs.

    On Titan, they occur because a simple naturally hydrocarbon, methane (CH4) undergoes photolytic conversion into more complex hydrocarbons like acetylene (C2H2), ethylene (C2H4), and ethane (C2H6). There are also a lot of carbon ions in Titan’s atmosphere which adds to the witches brew.

    Which brings up a point about hydrocarbons. They range from the simple like methane to complex polymers. It’s not just oil.

    The same thing can be said of silicon. It bonds easily and may be the basis of life somewhere. Because of the low energy characteristics of silicon though, such like is likely to be really weird and really slow to our perceptions.

    We really are all stardust. Even the dinosaurs.

  7. The lakes are methane and ethane, some propane. Water is ice (would be considered a mineral by folks out there). It forms cryovolcanoes that spout molten (melted) ice that solidifies (freezes) and creates an uneven surface for the lakes to form onto.

    The earth has an oxidizing atmosphere. Titan like most outer planets has a reducing atmosphere. There, your car would have a (gaseous) methane filter that you replace during tune-ups. You’d be buying oxygen to put in your tank for $4+ per gallon and people would be talking about peak oxygen.

  8. “Saturn’s largest moon hosts seas or lakes of liquid hydrocarbons — making it unique thus far among planets or moons. Titan is viewed as having many similarities with Earth.”

    No dinosaurs on Titan, hmmmm I bet the earth is the same way . . . Awash in oil. The only hard part is getting to it. Looks like we probably arent running out of oil after all. Dirty little secret of Exxon, OPEC and the Sierra Club.

  9. Well “similar” if one likes living in a DOW chemical plant in Antarctica without a heating system.

    I think living in a submarine enclave on Enceladus (Saturn) or Europa (Jupiter), or underground on Mars would be an easier life.


    “Ok, but how does the water stay and not be totally vaporized?”

    The lakes are not water, they are liquid ethane and methane at hundreds of degrees below zero.

    Only the crazy Canadian ice fishermen still live there. 😉

  10. How do you spell hydrocarbons, kiddies?
    >> O-I-L <<
    ( Seas and lakes, thereof !!! )


    The FOX Fraud and Fantasy Folks will call it a picture of a cue ball.



    The linked article says there are "pressures greater than 20,000 times Earth's sea-level atmosphere."

  11. If that was unclear, it’s not the elevation, it’s the atmospheric pressure. I found a web calculator for that sort of thing, and it looks like atmospheric pressure 6 or 7 times Earth’s (at sea level) would be adequate to keep water liquid at 500 deg. F.

    Of course, your ears would pop. Not in a good way, either.

  12. Denver, little help here? Just guessing — larger planet, higher gravity, higher atmospheric pressure. Water boils at a lower temp the higher up you are — and the inverse is also true.

  13. Ok, but how does the water stay and not be totally vaporized? It seems even to hot for me. But hey, I may just be so busy shaking hand with everyone that I won’t have time to notice that its that damn hot.

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