Hidden Nook

"Because in Cyberspace, no one can hear you scream."

Monday, January 17, 2005

Nitrogen Titan? What value is that?

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It appears that the moon of Titan (of Saturn) may have seas after all. Or that at least it is to be determined. Looking at the picture below one can see smog and a plateau, although the debate may wage whether the oceans are choppy or gooey. One thing they do agree upon is that their is no life on that moon, which is helpful because we now don't have to waste millions of dollars like we did on Mars searching for it (as if it would be on the soil).


PROBE'S-EYE VIEW: Huygens probe captured this 360-degree image of the surface of Titan as it drifted to a landing last week. The white streaks on the left could be ground fog; the center reveals a plateau. Scientists are debating the exact touchdown spot.

Titan is indeed a strange wonder and although economic value has yet to be determined, it still captivates the interest of many people (including myself).
According to Huygens's calculations, the probe sank six inches into the soil when it landed, suggesting a mushy mix - though scientists were not yet sure Monday if it landed in a light or a dark region.


CLOSE-UP: This photo of Titan's surface shows objects the size of small rocks.

Part of the reason for caution is that scientists have never before seen a world like this. At minus 290 degrees F., hydrocarbons like methane and ethane can act they way water does on Earth, while water is frozen solid, as a rock. Calculations suggest that as much as half of Titan might be water ice, meaning that the light-toned Titan highlands could well be hills of ice.

It makes Titan an odd analogue of Earth. Although Titan is less than half the size of Earth, its atmosphere is some 10 times as high; the lowest clouds on Titan are higher than the highest clouds on Earth. Titan and Earth are also the only objects in the solar system with nitrogen-based atmospheres. It was of the reasons for Titan's allure - the sense that it is a colder version Earth before life formed. And Huygens has done nothing to dispel that. "It is living up to its billing," says Dr. Lunine. "Titan is an exciting place."

That's it for now. Hopefully more information will come about this world, as I am hungry to find out if this world is worth the effort of exploring. (Hey, we can't explore on an empty budget, we need a compelling financial reason to reach this world) Selah!

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By Darnell Clayton • 7:07 PM • Email Post • •


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