by Stephen Smith
Synthetic-aperture radar image
measuring 242 kilometers high by 257 kilometers wide.
is at the top, and the image is illuminated from the bottom.
the thousands of "dunes".
Titan is not wet.
On October 15, 1997 NASA launched the six ton
Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, the
largest space mission ever deployed at the time.
Its name was changed
twice during the mission:
Cassini Equinox Mission was a
two-year extension that began on July 1, 2008, following the
completion of its Prime Mission from July 1, 2004 to June 30,
It was then changed
Cassini-Solstice Mission, named
for the Summer solstice on Saturn that took place in May 2017.
Cassini burned up in
Saturn's atmosphere on Friday, September 16, 2017.
Cassini's mission uncovered many problems.
Methane gas escapes
from Titan's atmosphere, where sunlight changes it back into
carbon and hydrogen. Titan is supposed to be billions of years
old, so how has its methane atmosphere survived - it should have
evaporated eons ago.
resolve that issue by imagining large lakes of liquid methane on
That idea suffered a blow when the Huygens lander touched down
on a rocky plain. No methane "rain" was detected and no methane
puddles were seen.
Instead, a vast, dry
expanse covered with "sand dunes" and "dry river channels" was
Huygens used a probe
attached to its bottom with a pressure sensor programmed with a
variety of materials.
The mission team reported
that the lander felt "something moist", but the data also indicated
dry sand. Methane drifted around the probe, but it quickly
dissipated - presumably because of the lander's heat.
According to a
recent press release, planetary
scientists analyzing Cassini's data archive, found more anomalies.
Titan, they speculate,
has a weather cycle like Earth, except it involves methane instead
rain, rivers, lakes and seas are said to exist on Titan, despite its
temperature of minus 220 Celsius. How those catchments were formed
is a puzzle, since they do not fit well with computer models.
Images transmitted from the Titan's surface revealed a rocky
landscape with the consistency of sand. A field of small pebbles
extended to the horizon. Spectrographic analysis established that
the "rocks" are made of water ice.
It is easy to understand
how ice can appear to be like rock when it is at a temperature of
minus 220 Celsius. Huygens did not find liquids of any kind.
The press announcement stated that they saw "small lakes" from orbit
that "evaporated" over time. However, what they did not see was
those lakes re-filling during Cassini's mission
The Cassini-Equinox orbiter detected an infrared reflection from an
area known as
Kraken Mare ("Monster Ocean")
that covers more than 400,000 square kilometers in Titan's north
Is Kraken Mare really a
lake larger than Earth's Lake Superior?
As noted in a previous Picture of the Day, the lakes on Titan
are similar to the "maria"
of our own Moon. Every brachiated channel on Titan is dry; they all
have dark, flat floors, with no evidence of flowing liquids.
Coupled with the
observation that Titan's Kraken Mare resembles
Mare Serenitatis more than it does
Lake Superior, the same rilles are present on Titan as on the Moon.
Electric Universe advocate
Wal Thornhill observed that images from Cassini are,
"…typical of arc
machining of the surface. I would compare them directly to the
scalloped scarring on Jupiter's moon Io and the flat, melted
floor depressions that result.
Such floors would be
expected to give a dark radar return."
The fact that the "lakes"
are also close by the vast dune fields in the polar regions suggests
an electrical origin sometime in the past.
It is in the southern and
northern latitudes of Titan that they are found. Since electrical
activity carved the surface of other rocky bodies, why would it come
as a surprise to find that it has also been at work on Titan?
It is a distinct
probability that the infrared light seen by Cassini was a
reflection from hardened glass-like surfaces.