TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 21 (UPI) — Liquid lakes on Titan, a moon of Saturn, do not contain water, but ethane and methane, also found in oil and gas wells on Earth, an Israeli researcher says.
The lakes were discovered five years ago when the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn sent a probe through Titan’s atmosphere, revealing hills, valleys and the lakes.
A researcher involved with the mission, Professor Akiva Bar-Nun of Tel Aviv University, has determined the composition of the lakes, a university release said.
“Titan’s unique atmosphere does not include nitrogen and oxygen like Earth’s, but rather nitrogen and methane,” Bar-Nun says.
Hydrocarbon gases condense in the atmosphere and fall to the surface of Saturn’s moon, he says.
“Upon reaching the cold surface, they liquefy, raining down, flowing through the gullies and accumulating into lakes — but you wouldn’t want to jump into them on a summer holiday,” Bar-Nun says.
The Cassini-Huygens probe confirmed a prediction Bar-Nun made in 1999 regarding the height of mountains on Titan.
Titan’s water-ice crust, he says, has similar properties to the permafrost found in Siberia. Being partly fluid, permafrost permits hills and mountains to rise no higher than around 6,200 feet — and no hill or mountain on Titan’s surface exceeds that height, the probe found.
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.