Thursday, March 20, 2014

Scientists May Have Finally Discovered Waves on Titan

Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute 

Researchers may have finally confirmed the existence of liquid waves on Saturn's moon Titan, a phenomenon scientists have spent years searching for without success.

Scientists have long been interested in Titan because of its seemingly terrestrial properties. NASA describes the moon as "one of the most Earth-like worlds we have found to date. With its thick atmosphere and organic-rich chemistry, Titan resembles a frozen version of Earth, several billion years ago, before life began pumping oxygen into our atmosphere." So the possibility of waves, a feature unique to Earth in our solar system, on the surface of Titan has long intrigued researchers. Finally, they may have some proof to back up the scientific speculation. 

According to planetary scientist Jason Barnes, unusual reflections off the surface of one of the moon's hydrocarbon seas, Punga Mare, could have been caused by ripples across the lunar ocean's surface. Punga Mare is made up of gases like methane and ethane, which exist in their liquid forms on Titan's -180 Celsius surface. Barnes examined images captured by NASA's Cassini mission in 2012 and 2013 and presented his findings at this year's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, currently underway in Texas.

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