Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Lake On Titan Winks From a Billion Kilometers Away

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the next-time-send-chocolate dept.

Space 139

The Bad Astronomer writes "NASA's Cassini spacecraft took an image of Saturn's giant moon Titan earlier this year that serendipitously provides proof of liquid (probably methane) on its surface. The picture shows a glint of reflected sunlight off of a monster lake called Kraken Mare (larger than the Caspian Sea!). Scientists have been getting better and better evidence of liquid methane on Titan, but this is the first direct proof."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Liquid Methane Eh? (1, Funny)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#30482974)

Thats what I call it when it doesn't come out as ass gas.

Re:Liquid Methane Eh? (0, Offtopic)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483016)

They finally received a brown-eyed wink from Titan.

Re:Liquid Methane Eh? (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483514)

If you have a decent 8" reflecting scope here on Earth, you can easily observe that Titan looks like a rusty sheriff's badge.

Re:Liquid Methane Eh? (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484248)

If you have a decent 8" reflecting scope here on Earth, you can easily observe that Titan looks like a rusty sheriff's badge.

Aren't sheriff's badges typically the same color as a trombone?

Re:Liquid Methane Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30484534)

A rusty trombone, maybe.

Re:Liquid Methane Eh? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30484612)

Way to explain the joke, asshole.

Re:Liquid Methane Eh? (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483224)

Where's the TMI mod when you need it?

Re:Liquid Methane Eh? (3, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483368)

Thats what I call it when it doesn't come out as ass gas.

Read the name of the "lake", - Kraken Mare.

It's just a big puddle of sea-monster piss, nothing exciting at all.

Re:Liquid Methane Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30485454)

Liquid Methane coming from a Moon...

Now I have nasty images

billion kilometers (4, Interesting)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483006)

Its called a terameter. What is the point of the metric system if you don't use the other scales?

Re:billion kilometers (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483050)

Mod parent +1E0 Informative but Pedantic.

Re:billion kilometers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483192)

Mod parent +1E0 Informative but Pedantic.

I'll show you pedantic; it's spelled terametre.

Re:billion kilometers (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483500)

Mod parent +1E0 Informative but Pedantic.

I'll show you pedantic; it's spelled terametre.

It's spelt "spelt", not "spelled", if you insist on using British English, my pedantic friend.

Re:billion kilometers (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484156)

my pedantic friend.

I much prefer pedantik. Has a more Teutonic flair, you see.

Re:billion kilometers (2, Informative)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30486154)

Both work [wiktionary.org]

I, at least, prefer reducing the sheer number of irregular verbs out there.

Re:billion kilometers (3, Informative)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483082)

Just be glad it's not "Lake on Titan Winks from 621 Million Miles Away"

Or "Lake on Titan Winks from 4.97 billion Furlongs Away"

Or "Lake on Titan Winks from 10^-12 Diopters Away"

Re:billion kilometers (1)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483146)

Actually I might place more trust any of those. They have the sound of a extremely quirky scientist (1/2 NASA still uses miles, remember). Especially with decimal places.

A billion kilometers sounds like it went through a news source and was dumbed down for someone who doesn't understand powers of 10 (eg That's a one followed by 12 zeros!).

Re:billion kilometers (2, Informative)

stuffman64 (208233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483354)

Even if Diopter was a proper measure of length (and it isn't), it would actually be 1/(10^-12 Diopter) as Diopter is the reciprocal of a focal length to measure optical power. Still, it's an interesting way of putting it.

Re:billion kilometers (4, Informative)

dsoltesz (563978) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483826)

No matter how you say it, it's wrong. It winks from 200,000 kilometers away. The rest of the distance was just data transfer.

Re:billion kilometers (4, Informative)

Herve5 (879674) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484722)

Actually it's one and a half hour away. At light' speed, I mean.

I happen to have been tech resp. of the european Huygens probe that Cassini brought to Titan, and what I remember the most from the time of Huygens descent and landing years ago, is this feeling that all the active descent has *already* happened, while here on Earth we didn't yet have received the first bits of info, radiowave that were still into the travel.

Indeed that was a very real way of measuring distance. Saturn definitely is not close...

Hervé S. (now back on more conventional Earth observation spacecraft designs ;-)

Re:billion kilometers (3, Informative)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483124)

Depends on whether those are British billions or normal billions.

http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutwords/billion?view=uk [askoxford.com]

Re:billion kilometers (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483196)

Exactly; if they used a metric prefix, there would not be that ambiguity.

Re:billion kilometers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483426)

They're nigger billions - lots of ice [wordpress.com] and rock [cocaine.org] 'n' shit on them planets.

Re:billion kilometers (1)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483564)

Its 1024 ^ n. Everyone knows that!

Re:billion kilometers (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483140)

Its called a terameter. What is the point of the metric system if you don't use the other scales?

That unit would scare away readers. "Yikes! A terameter-high terrorist!"
     

Re:billion kilometers (1, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483382)

Its called a terameter.

A terameter is a tool for measuring teras.

A terametre is a unit of distance.

Re:billion kilometers (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483484)

I'm afraid you are being pedantic. Both are acceptable. The "-re" suffix is an influence from French. If you look at French words for measuring devices as well as units of measure, you will understand this.

Re:billion kilometers (2, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483676)

Both are acceptable.

Of course. And so is "1 inch = 25.4 millimeters"

Let's face it, this isn't rocket science, is it?

Re:billion kilometers (0)

Zencyde (850968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30485042)

Hey, even the rocket scientists sometimes mess that up. 1 million dollar NASA failure, anyone?

Re:billion kilometers (1)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#30485450)

Don't you mean "1 Megadollar failure"?

Re:billion kilometers (1)

mqduck (232646) | more than 4 years ago | (#30485430)

I'm afraid you are being pedantic. Both are acceptable.

If both are correct, it's not really pedantic, is it?

Re:billion kilometers (2, Funny)

ctmurray (1475885) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483480)

Its called a terameter. What is the point of the metric system if you don't use the other scales?

Because then everyone would have to look up teramer and google would crash under the /. rush.

Re:billion kilometers (1)

ogl_codemonkey (706920) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483752)

In related news, scientists at the LHC are studying the possibility of creating Skynet by typing 'Google' into Google.

Fortunately, their Internet is down due to a bagel-related hardware fault.

Re:billion kilometers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483492)

How many Libraries of Congress is that?

Re:billion kilometers (1)

besalope (1186101) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483512)

Why use meters at all? It's in space, it should be measured in AU (astronomical units).

Re:billion kilometers (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484298)

It's in space, it should be measured in AU (astronomical units).

Not to mention that spaced-out Aussies are just naturally cool units anyway.

Re:billion kilometers (1)

Changa_MC (827317) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484516)

I've never understood this. Why use a separate unit for measuring distance in space? We already have a distance unit, it's called the meter.

Why is 2Tm less convenient when measuring distance in space than 14AU?

Because it's... in space?

Re:billion kilometers (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483632)

Its called a terameter. What is the point of the metric system if you don't use the other scales?

Plain ol' familiarity. Same reason that I would say that I weigh 90 kilograms instead of 0.09 megagrams. Well, maybe that and what it implies. :-O

Re:billion kilometers (2, Insightful)

Alarindris (1253418) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483692)

The point of the metric system is consistent units of 10, not the naming conventions. They prefixes are basically as arbitrary as 12 in = 1 foot, as no one speaks latin anymore.

Re:billion kilometers (3, Interesting)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483898)

It is generally accepted to try to use the prefix that will best keep the number of units between 1-999. More people might still speak parts of Latin if people used the correct terms. Also Slashdot is a technical crowd and I would bet that less than 1% doesn't know what a Tera means.

Re:billion kilometers (2, Insightful)

Alarindris (1253418) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484904)

That's my point, metric's usefulness is the math part. The prefixes could be called anything, they could be iimeter, imeter, meter, Imeter, IImeter, etc.

That part you still have to memorize just like 5280ft in a mile.

Re:billion kilometers (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30486212)

That part you still have to memorize just like 5280ft in a mile.

At least you don't have to memorize the names 3 times, once for distance (inch, foot, mile, etc), once for mass (ounce, pound, etc) and once for volume (fluid ounce, pint, gallon, etc).

1 x 10^12 m (1)

iroll (717924) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484008)

It's called scientific notation. Nobody really uses metric prefixes.

Re:billion kilometers (2, Interesting)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484010)

Heh, reminds me of I think it was Enterprise episodes where they were talking of thousands and tens of thousands of meters from the ship. I kept wondering why they didn't say for example 3.5 kilomoeters, 20 kiliometers, etc.

Just be glad the headline wasn't "Lake On Titan Winks From a Giga Kilomoeter Away"

How do they know it's methane (1)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483024)

How do they know it's methane, couldn't it be any liquid?

Re:How do they know it's methane (4, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483090)

We know that Titan has a lot of methane. The main reason is that the radiation it gives off is consistent with methane. In particular, we can use spectroscopy to confirm that the light given off is highly consistent with methane reflecting light from the sun. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectroscopy [wikipedia.org] . We have evidence for the methane nature both in the visible range, infrared range and certain other ranges that is consistent with methane and not much else. Moreover, methane is very stable and fairly common (as chemicals go) so even if we didn't have very good spectroscopic data, it would be the most likely guess.

Re:How do they know it's methane (4, Funny)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483168)

ALL THESE FARTS ARE YOURS. USE THEM WISELY, AND DON'T LIGHT ANY NAKED FLAMES.

EXCEPT TITAN. ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE, BECAUSE IT BLOODY STINKS.

Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING. Yes, right, I'm sure Stanley Kubrick told Arthur C. Clarke the same thing when they were finalizing the screenplay. So now I'm reduced to typing a lot of mindless garbage just to get around the lousy Slashdot filter.

Re:How do they know it's methane (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483412)

The text parent is paraphrasing belongs to 2010: Odyssey Two, directed by Peter Hyams. No Kubrick around.

Re:How do they know it's methane (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483896)

Although to be pedantic, methane doesn't smell.

The purest farts are silent, and not deadly, unless lit.

Re:How do they know it's methane (1)

zoom-ping (905112) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483098)

Spectrum analysis? Didn't RTFA.

Re:How do they know it's methane (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483128)

How do they know it's methane, couldn't it be any liquid?

At that temperature, anyway. It can't be water.

Re:How do they know it's methane (2, Informative)

Herve5 (879674) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484792)

indeed on Titan the ground rocks are constituted of almost pure water ice, and over there ice just will be rock-hard forever.
The pebble on these Cassini-Huygens lander photos are ice: http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Cassini-Huygens/SEMEMY71Y3E_0.html [esa.int] (visible on the orange vertical image that is the "last photo" Huygens took once on ground)
Hervé

Where do the hydrocarbons come from? (2, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483026)

Methane is an organic material. Organics are one of the key building blocks of life. In fact, it is one of many byproducts of life processes. An abundance of organic material bodes well for finding life (probably bacterial) on Titan.

The question is whether life arose there on its own or was seeded by wayward asteroids and comets.

Re:Where do the hydrocarbons come from? (4, Informative)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483278)

Methane is the precursor to organic molecules, in a more general sense, not the result of biological processes. When you're the simplest combination of carbon (what, the fourth most abundant element in the universe?) and hydrogen (the most abundant element), it's hard to argue that your existence requires biological processes. (Particularly as methane is found everywhere volatiles can be found in our solar system and outside of it.)

Perhaps you're confused by the fact that methane on Earth is usually the result of biological activity? That's because in our peculiar atmosphere, methane can't survive long before oxidation.

Re:Where do the hydrocarbons come from? (3, Informative)

dumuzi (1497471) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483284)

The methane [spaceref.ca] is believed to come from geological processes and not from life.

Re:Where do the hydrocarbons come from? (5, Interesting)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483344)

Methane is an organic material. Organics are one of the key building blocks of life. In fact, it is one of many byproducts of life processes. An abundance of organic material bodes well for finding life (probably bacterial) on Titan.

I doubt it. "Organic" is an artificially created classification. It just means anything that is prevalently composed of carbon atoms. There happen to be a lot of carbon atoms in the universe, due to its relatively low atomic mass. There's also a ton of helium. It is not really surprising that these common elements might be found, in combination, in large quantities. We have large deposits of hydrocarbon here on Earth as well. Yes, these compounds are, according to our own definitions, "organic", and in fact originated from living matter, but we do not see organisms thriving in the deep oil wells.

I do not see how an excess of methane would indicate the likelihood of finding "bacterial" life. What would the cell walls be composed of? It would have to be something like a lipid bi-layer, so that the membrane wouldn't just dissolve into the methane. But then, what's INSIDE the cell? Probably, it would be more hydrocarbons. These non-polar materials are ill-suited as stages for complex, biological chemical reactions. They cannot dissolve ions. Without soluble ions, hell, without soluble polar compounds, there isn't a whole hell of a lot of interesting chemistry that can take place.

If we found tons of water that would be far more indication of the potential for life. Water has dozens of extremely unusual properties all of which make it conducive to life.

Re:Where do the hydrocarbons come from? (1)

crea5e (590098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483824)

Our definition of life is biased as to what we have observed on this planet. So if we are looking for life that could sustain itself on our planet then the definition we use suffices. I for one, would rather not find a life form that can sustain itself on our planet due to all the documentaries / science fiction movies depicting our demise. Lets try to find life that has nothing to do with the life we know and endure on this planet and would die if it tried to live amongst us. Likewise, the aliens, don't want us to migrate to their neck of the woods either and be like a little brother wanting to tag along. The release of Avatar is happening galaxy wide simultaneously and they know what we intend to do. The good question is do you think that aliens somewhere else are watching Star Trek (original Series)? Would they think it was a documentary or understand its fictional content, all technological hurdles to translate and view aside... perhaps television earlier than that is like a repellant spray ... We just have to wait till they watch Star Trek and realize we've evolved a tad. They are probably affended by the all the cheesy scifi stuff.. or believe we kill aliens... ( What if it was thought to be real... how would they know fiction from reality? ) ...

Re:Where do the hydrocarbons come from? (2, Informative)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483868)

Lets try to find life that has nothing to do with the life we know and endure on this planet and would die if it tried to live amongst us.

No. What you are saying is basically, "We should be looking for something we can't imagine." I'd like to point out that this is basically the same as saying "Let's find some shit," and doesn't help whatsoever in directing us WHERE we ought to be looking for life. If you want to find life, you need some kind of strategy to narrow down the billions of possible places to look to something that's likely to turn up some results. Looking for something that, by definition, you have no idea how to look for, is not a fruitful use of resources.

Water, carbon, nitrogen, these are not rare materials in the universe. Chances are pretty good that if life could form from these materials here, it could form elsewhere. And we know WHAT to look for to recognize the signs of life as we know it. Only if we look long and hard, and find no signs of life as we know it anywhere in the measurable universe, should we turn to such vague propositions as "Let's look for something we can't imagine."

Re:Where do the hydrocarbons come from? (1)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483962)

In addition to the hydrocarbons, there is quite a bit of nitrogen available on Titan that gets fixed into a wide variety of molecules by UV radiation and cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere. It has been suggested that life could make a go of it on Titan with ammonia, nitriles, azides, and amines to provide reactivity. It would have to be a form of biochemistry that treats oxygen as a trace element, but the variety of reactive species you can form with just C,H, and N might be enough to substitute for most of oxygen's roles. It's still doubtful that life ever arose on Titan. A place with the limited chemistry set of Titan would benefit from having a lot of available energy to surmount potential energy barriers of reactions, but instead it's awfully cold there, and the atmosphere is opaque.

Re:Where do the hydrocarbons come from? (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483988)

There happen to be a lot of carbon atoms in the universe, due to its relatively low atomic mass. There's also a ton of helium. It is not really surprising that these common elements might be found, in combination, in large quantities.

Carbon in chemical combination with helium would be exceptionally interesting. Unfortunately, what we have here is carbon and hydrogen in the form of methane [wikipedia.org] and ethane, a combination that would hardly raise an eyebrow except for the observation that it's in liquid form. If it were frozen solid like the tonnes of water ice on Titan, things would look much less likely for any sort of complex chemistry. As it is now there are at least some possibilities.

Re:Where do the hydrocarbons come from? (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484178)

Yes, I somehow wrote helium instead of hydrogen. I was going to post a correction but figure somebody else would anyway.

Re:Where do the hydrocarbons come from? (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484188)

I'm glad I didn't let you down ;)

Re:Where do the hydrocarbons come from? (2, Informative)

hughperkins (705005) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484296)

> There's also a ton of helium. It is not really surprising that these common elements might be found, in combination, in large quantities.

I don't think you'll find helium combining with anything much ;-) I think you meant 'hydrogen' :-P

Titan life bleak. (3, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483586)

The odds for life on Titan are bleak because it is so damned cold. How cold is Titan? Well, when your methane is liquid, as in, liquified natural gas, that's pretty damned cold. The other problem, I think, is a lack of oxygen. I think the basic blocks for life would be nitrogren, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and I think a splash of sulfur, plus some form of energy. When you really think about it, life is basically a set of chemical reactions that go against the grain of entropy and produce a set of molecules that arrange things in a higher energy state. Like, the outcome of most dead things is to easily burn.

Mercury is big metal blob and way too hot.
Venus has too much carbon.
Earth is nice.
Mars is missing nitrogen.
Jupiter / Saturn / Uranus / Neptune big hydrogen blobs.
Pluto, other deep objects, are near absolute zero.

Maybe Jupiter's moon Europa might luck out.

But honestly, I would bet that if you included some terms in Drake's equation to allow for the probability of having all the elements in the right mix at the right distance from a star, then, it may well turn out that we are certainly alone in at least a 100 light year radius.

Re:Titan life bleak. (1)

Changa_MC (827317) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484572)

I'm not sure that we know enough to dismiss Mars yet. Certainly it has the potential for simple life.

BTW, I clicked your sig but I'm not going to bookmark and wait for a site that completely closes up shop simply because they want to say they've gone open source. Give me something or give me nothing, either way I'm gone now.

Re:Where do the hydrocarbons come from? (1)

MidnightBrewer (97195) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483592)

Due to the frigid temperatures on Titan, scientists are not very optimistic about finding life there; without the heat input of the sun to speed up chemical reactions, it would take an incredible amount of time, if ever, for even the simplest structures to develop.

Re:Where do the hydrocarbons come from? (1)

Herve5 (879674) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484824)

indeed the reason for the Cassini/Huygens mission over there was to analyse what was called a "frozen Earth" at the prebiotic stage.
Titan's size and atmosphere thickness is definitely comparable to ours (and the only one in the solar system), it just never got the necessary energy to start things up...

And given the possibility of life... (4, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483036)

Prior to this, the main evidence that Titan might have liquid methane was based on the reflection of radio waves detected by the Cassini probe. In particular, there were discrepancies between what one would expect and what was observed in the percentage of reflection in the ELF range (about 2 to 30 Hz). This discrepancy suggests some form of boundary layer, such as a boundary between liquid and solid methane or between liquid methane and some other solid substance. There's also a lot of evidence for a large internal methane sea under the solid surface. We still know very little about Titan. We've only sent a single probe (Huygens) actually dedicated to investigating it. However, even Huygens wasn't much and was just a part of the larger Cassini mission. The next scheduled mission is the TSSM (Titan Saturn System Mission) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titan_Saturn_System_Mission [wikipedia.org] http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/index.cfm?fobjectid=44033 [esa.int] ) which will focus a lot more on Titan. Hopefully a lot of the mysteries about the moon will then be answered.

Titan is routinely used as an example of a moon that might have life. Unfortunately, if there is any life, it is almost certainly microbial. So no one is appreciating the view from the planet.

Re:And given the possibility of life... (3, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483188)

The Huygens probe was actually designed to float in liquid in case it encountered a pond, lake, or ocean. It would have been interesting if it did, but alas it landed on just dry land (or at least frozen-solid land). However, the rocks (possibly water-ice) it imaged at the surface were rounded off, suggesting that they used to be embedded in liquid.

Re:And given the possibility of life... (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483394)

> Unfortunately, if there is any life, it is almost certainly microbial. So no one is appreciating the view from the planet.
UNFORTUNATELY? Uggh. I'd call it a relief. I'm quite happy here on Earth with no natural predators. Sure, it's just because we humans taste aweful, but aliens may have a different sense of taste.

Re:And given the possibility of life... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483572)

>>Unfortunately, if there is any life, it is almost certainly microbial.

Yeah, microbes and whatever else grew on the pizza we left there when we departed to visit you humans.

Re:And given the possibility of life... (1)

Trapezium Artist (919330) | more than 4 years ago | (#30485976)

Saying that Huygens "wasn't much" and "was just a part of the larger Cassini mission" is pretty misguided thinking and borders on insulting the scientists and engineers who put this amazing probe together, IMHO.

Are you saying that designing a probe that survives, dormant, for almost 7 years in interplanetary space and then turns on perfectly "isn't much"? Are you saying that making a fully-autonomous descent and soft landing on an outer planet's moon and sending back a stunning image of the surface "isn't much"? Are you saying that providing essentially real-time (light travel delay notwithstanding) imaging of lakes and drainage gullies during the descent, along with atmospheric sampling, "isn't much"? Are you saying that getting all these signals back from 1.2 billion kilometres with just a 10 watt transmitter "isn't much"? Good grief.

It was also much more than "just" a part of the Cassini mission: it was an integral part of it, all the way back to the early 1980s when the joint mission was first proposed. The US-European collaboration had its political moments, but it worked. Yes, Cassini is still returning great data (including the Titan sea glint image), but Huygens was never going to survive long with just batteries to power it under Titan's atmospheric murk. It shouldn't be dismissed as a consequence.

As for TSSM, it's a massive overstatement to say that it's "scheduled": nowhere near. TSSM (or more properly, its TandDEM predecessor) was proposed to ESA as a large (L) mission as part of the Cosmic Vision process in 2007 and did go through to the beginning of the second round along with the (also joint ESA-NASA) LAPLACE mission to Jupiter. The latter was however chosen for study by ESA and NASA to pursue first and is now the Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM). EJSM, if selected as the first CV L-mission, would fly (probably) no earlier than 2020, thus pushing TSSM back to the mid-2020's at the earliest, with arrival at Saturn and Titan in the mid-2030's.

So, exciting as it would be scientifically, don't hold your breath.

Proof (1)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483074)

The picture, even in "full resolution" is fuzzy. It reminds me of the original Quake logo. Considering that our atmosphere has strange phenomena causing glowing orbs that can be seen from space, I would see this "proof" as suspect.

Re:Proof (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483138)

A bright light out around Saturn has to be the sun. So if your camera is not pointing at the sun it must be pointing at a reflection of the sun.

Re:Proof (3, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483152)

This image was taken by Cassini, the US probe currently orbiting Saturn. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/multimedia/cassini20091217.html [nasa.gov] Issues in our own atmosphere thus could not impact this. And if you meant that Titan might have strange atmospheric behavior causing this, that's almost as unlikely. The size of this event is much larger than almost any weird atmospheric event (which are normally at most a few hundred meters large at the very largest, rather than many kilometers across. Moreover, this picture isn't the only data point. The data was consistent with specular reflection over all observed wavelengths (both visual and near infrared). So you would need to posit an extremely large event that happened to precisely duplicate what we'd expect to see in reflection. That's remotely possible, but not at all likely. There's never "proof" in science. Proof is for mathematics and alcohol. But this is very strong evidence for the presence of a large body of liquid methane on the surface of Titan.

Re:Proof (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483736)

Not only that, but the reflection matched up with a large area they suspected was a lake in previous surface images.

Re:Proof (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483304)

I suspect it merely looks fuzzy because of haze rather than distance or camera movement. Even close up, the photos of the atmosphere usually appear fuzzy or hazy clear back to the Voyager days. Its atmosphere extends pretty high into space because of low gravity.

Re:Proof (1)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483540)

Its not really a "camera", it does have a CCD, but apparently it uses diffraction grating and a mirror rotating along a single plane to make images. My guess is that this allows super-accurate mapping of light frequencies, but hurts the resolution. Also at this kind of distance the slightest imperfections in the lens would have much bigger impact, as would uneven gravitation fields. I just kind of expect clearer images from NASA by this point (especially after the upgrades to Hubble). Dually so for "proof".

Re:Proof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483314)

Jesus fuck. Why is it that every Slashtard thinks he can turn science into a conspiracy using elementary school science?

I hope you seriously STFU, Godsped. You need to shut your fucking trap, sit down and listen to those who know better than you. I swear I'm sick of fucking retards who got their science education from the Sci-Fi channel. SHUT YOUR FUCKING SEWER!!!

Re:Proof (1)

grcumb (781340) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483970)

The picture, even in "full resolution" is fuzzy.

That's because Titan wasn't winking at Earth. He was winking at Venus, who is, like, way hotter.

Obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483086)

"That's no moon!"

Fossil Oxidisers (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483104)

If it was possible to mine or drill for oxidizers under the surface of Titan, then you would have a complete energy economy.

Frozen Nitrous Oxide anyone?

Re:Fossil Oxidisers (2, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483144)

Frozen Nitrous Oxide anyone?

Pssshh. Don't make me laugh.

Re:Fossil Oxidisers (1)

stoicio (710327) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483360)

You actually don't need an oxidizer.

If you just take the methane, and a big solar reflector, you should be able to
cook the methane molecules (like ants under a magnifying glass).

Then use the expansion to drive turbines on zero g.
Transmit the energy back to Earth or moon for storage and distribution.

We wouldn't need to use any energy resources from Earth after that.

Using the moons of Jupter or Saturn as gravitational generators would probably be more efficient though....

Re:Fossil Oxidisers (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483430)

This would require a lot more infrastructure than the OP's proposal. Far out at Saturn the amount of light you get is much less than you get near the Earth because of the inverse square law. Saturn is about 9 times as far away from the sun as Earth is. So Saturn has less sunlight by a factor of 1/81. That's a lot. That means that any solar based energy system would be very inefficient compared to building it just around near planets like Earth. Indeed, that's one major reason probes like Cassini (the probe that took these pictures) use some nuclear power. There just isn't enough sunlight out there to be very practical. So building solar reflectors out near Saturn would just be inefficient.

Re:Fossil Oxidisers (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483680)

Wouldn't that depend on if you were collecting the radiant energy from the sun?

As I understand it, Saturn and Jupiter emit lots of blackbody infrared energy from their own gravity causing atmospheric friction events.

Failing that, one could also utilize the tidal forces of the gas giant as an energy source, since even at it's distance from it's parent planet, the gravitational mass-energy of the system would be immense. (Saturn may be smaller than Jupiter, but it's no midget either. It's got plenty of mass.) With the prospect of sources of liquid working fluid at surface pressure and temperature, one could set up a tidal force power plant instead to heat the methane.

Also, Methane is unusual in that it has an extremely low boiling point, and in an environment very near the critical threshold for the 3 phase transition to occur it would make a fantastic working fluid in a sterling engine. (because the thermal expansion and contraction would be very large, over a very small temperature change range.) (Not meant as primary power, but as a good reclamation system for wasted thermal energy produced by the tidal plant.)

Properly engineered, one could feasibly get a very sizable amount of power generated out there.

Re:Fossil Oxidisers (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483536)

Geologically, Sulfate is most likely as far as oxidizers are concerned. NOw in so far as reacting the two together, you'd have to have a very well insulated system that uses the reaction its self to bring the reactants to a high enoug htemperature that chemical reactions can take place efficiently. Then there's the problme of mining the materials: THe reaction probably doesn't give out enough energy to make mining Sulfate as an oxidizer energy efficient.

mko3 up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483148)

Usenet is 8Oughly

The Simplest Explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483170)

That light is probably just glinting off the statue in Rumfoord's swimming pool.

Back on Earth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483302)

A sexual harassment suit was filed against the lake by the Isle of Lesbos.

Let Loose... (1)

SuperGus (678577) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483414)

The Kraken! The name of a lake on the moon of Titan, no less.

The Question is...which Sea is It? (1)

warnellg (922411) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483462)

The Winston Sea, the Niles Sea, or the Rumfoord Sea?

Re:The Question is...which Sea is It? (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30486248)

Is that an African or European sea?

Oh noes! Science article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483474)

Cue all the little comic book reading fags who'll make up dumb jokes because they couldn't contribute anything insightful to the conversation if their life depended on it.

My question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483502)

Is there simply no oxygen for it to ignite? When someone says lake of Methane I think Lake of somethuing really volatile.

Fake. (3, Insightful)

mopomi (696055) | more than 4 years ago | (#30483526)

We all know it's faked. Those slimy scientists will do anything to guarantee their funding for another year. Last year it was a decoupled lithosphere on Titan, now it's lakes of liquid hydrocarbons? Sure! Next it'll be seasonal rivers of liquid hydrocarbons, jets of water escaping from Enceladus, volcanism on Io, meteorites on Mars, people on the moon, etc., etc., etc. We really need to reign in these people.

Re:Fake. (1)

MedBob (96899) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484150)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CW0hGhINjc

Re:Fake. (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 4 years ago | (#30484254)

You joke, but if exogeologists ever got to a point where they were dictating major governmental policies, you bet they probably would need reigned in.

Frosht pist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30483888)

Off of (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30484250)

"Off of" is terrible english.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?