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 Cassini Spots a Nile Like River Valley on Titan

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Posts : 7972
Join date : 2012-05-29
Location : Manchester UK

PostSubject: Cassini Spots a Nile Like River Valley on Titan   Fri 14 Dec 2012, 12:23

Cassini Spots a Nile Like River Valley on Titan

December 12, 2012


miniature version of the Nile River, seen on Saturn’s moon Titan by the
international Cassini mission. The river valley stretches more than 400
km from its ‘headwaters’ to a large sea, and likely contains
hydrocarbons. The image was acquired on 26 September 2012, on Cassini’s
87th close flyby of Titan. The river valley crosses Titan’s north polar
region and runs into Kraken Mare, one of the three great seas in the
high northern latitudes of the moon. NASA/JPL–Caltech/ASI

Cassini has spotted a river valley, which scientists believe is
filled with liquid, on Saturn’s moon Titan that stretches more than 400

The international Cassini mission has spotted what appears to be a
miniature extraterrestrial version of the Nile River: a river valley on
Saturn’s moon Titan that stretches more than 400 km from its
‘headwaters’ to a large sea.

It is the first time images have revealed a river system this vast and in such high resolution anywhere beyond Earth.

Scientists deduce that the river is filled with liquid because it
appears dark along its entire extent in the high-resolution radar image,
indicating a smooth surface.

“Though there are some short, local meanders, the relative
straightness of the river valley suggests it follows the trace of at
least one fault, similar to other large rivers running into the southern
margin of this same Titan sea,” says Jani Radebaugh, a Cassini radar
team associate at Brigham Young University, USA.

“Such faults – fractures in Titan’s bedrock – may not imply plate
tectonics, like on Earth, but still lead to the opening of basins and
perhaps to the formation of the giant seas themselves.”

Titan is the only other world we know of that has stable liquid on
its surface. While Earth’s hydrologic cycle relies on water, Titan’s
equivalent cycle involves hydrocarbons such as ethane and methane.

Images from Cassini’s visible-light cameras in late 2010 revealed regions that darkened after recent rainfall.

Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer confirmed liquid
ethane at a lake in Titan’s southern hemisphere known as Ontario Lacus
in 2008.

“This radar-imaged river by Cassini provides another fantastic
snapshot of a world in motion, which was first hinted at from the images
of channels and gullies seen by ESA’s Huygens probe as it descended to
the moon’s surface in 2005,” says Nicolas Altobelli, ESA’s Cassini
Project Scientist.

The Cassini–Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and
ASI, the Italian space agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a
division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages
the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The
Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The radar
instrument was built by JPL and ASI, working with team members from the
US and several European countries.

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