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NASA Picks Up Rainstorms On Titan

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the you-can-still-grill-outdoors-though dept.

NASA 110

RedEaredSlider writes "Rainy seasons aren't just a regular occurrence on Earth — they also happen on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. The rain isn't water, it's methane. And the seasons are years long, as Titan takes two weeks to go around Saturn and Saturn takes 29 years to complete one circuit of the Sun. Recent images from the Cassini probe, which is currently orbiting Saturn, show clouds forming in Titan's atmosphere and evidence that liquid methane is soaking the surface."

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I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35556656)

Alien space beings who communicate through song!

Re:I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557082)

And I'm pretty sure their father uses KDE.

Re:I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (2)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557264)

It strikes me as odd that a celestial body can be drenched in hydrocarbons like that yet no fire. Here on earth all it takes is dry conditions for a few weeks and fires pop up all over. How can Titan be a ball of flammable substances which remains unlit?

Re:I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557326)

You don't know, and I don't know too

Re:I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (4, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557412)

It strikes me as odd that a celestial body can be drenched in hydrocarbons like that yet no fire. Here on earth all it takes is dry conditions for a few weeks and fires pop up all over. How can Titan be a ball of flammable substances which remains unlit?

To burn you need fuel and oxidiser. The atmosphere on Titan is like the inside of a Nitrogen fire extinguisher. Any oxygen on Titan long ago combined with hydrogen to make water. There is a lot of water on Titan. The planet is actually made of the stuff. Having said that I wonder if oxygen or another oxidiser could have survived under ground where the Methane can't get at it. Such fossil fuels could lead to the return of the internal combustion engine, but this time in the outer solar system.

Re:I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (2)

CanadianRealist (1258974) | more than 3 years ago | (#35558330)

I'm not sure if this was the idea you were going for, but suppose that there is a sufficient concentration of methane in the atmosphere. You would fill your vehicle's tank with oxygen and use that to be burn the surrounding atmosphere in the engine. Instead of carrying fuel and getting the oxidiser from the atmosphere you would be doing the reverse, carrying the oxidiser with you.

Re:I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35559042)

You also need one other critical component: heat. Considering the temperature on Titan is somewhere around -179C, fires aren't going to break out any time soon.

Re:I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35569358)

You also need one other critical component: heat. Considering the temperature on Titan is somewhere around -179C, fires aren't going to break out any time soon.

No but they would have when Titan was forming.

Re:I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (0)

icannotthinkofaname (1480543) | more than 3 years ago | (#35559226)

There is a lot of water on Titan. The planet is actually made of the stuff.

Did you really just call Titan a planet? Either you did, or your post is written in an especially confusing way. Now, which of us needs our morning coffee before posting on Slashdot again?

Re:I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35560302)

Coffee for everyone!

Re:I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (1)

kyuubiunl (1747574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35560212)

It's called the FIRE TRIANGLE. Fuel, Oxygen, Heat. In addition to all three parts, the mixture has to be perfect for combustion to occur. If the temperature/pressure is not sufficient to reach the flash point of the hydrocarbon, it will not ignite. Ever. Also the flash point is different at different pressures.

Re:I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35569964)

As I discovered trying to light a camp fire at 5000 feet..

Re:I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (1)

Progman3K (515744) | more than 3 years ago | (#35558184)

Probably because Titan is less oxygen-rich than the Earth and fire requires oxygen?

Re:I'm pretty sure Titan is the home of... (1)

kyuubiunl (1747574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35574294)

Sort of. There is not appropriate oxygen OR temperature for there to be fires, but assuming there WAS. Titan's atmosphere is:
1.5x Atm -OR - 14.7psia * 1.5 = 22.05psia. Methane at this pressure is mostly liquid.
    1. Its melting point is then -279 deg(F).
    2. It would flash at -204.26 deg(F) with an ignition source.
    3. It would auto ignite (again, sufficient oxygen) at -271.02 deg(F).
However this is all very academic as the temperature on the surface averages -355.1 deg(F).

Sounds like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35556666)

When my ex has burritos.

Years long... (4, Interesting)

Kokuyo (549451) | more than 3 years ago | (#35556688)

Can someone explain to me how long these years are? I find the TFA confusing.

Our years are calculated by the circuit of our own planet around the sun. So does this rainy weather last for literal earth years or are they talking about relative years? And then: Saturn yars or Titan years? And what would a Titan year be since it doesn't revolve around the sun directly.

Yeah, I don't have a clue about astronomy ;).

Re:Years long... (3, Insightful)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35556704)

Can someone explain to me how long these years are? I find the TFA confusing.

Our years are calculated by the circuit of our own planet around the sun. So does this rainy weather last for literal earth years or are they talking about relative years? And then: Saturn yars or Titan years? And what would a Titan year be since it doesn't revolve around the sun directly.

Yeah, I don't have a clue about astronomy ;).

And the seasons are years long, as Titan takes two weeks to go around Saturn and Saturn takes 29 years to complete one circuit of the Sun.

Obviously we're talking about Earth years, because Saturn revolving once around the sun cannot possibly take 29 Saturn years as that would completely contradict the definition of the word "year".

Re:Years long... (4, Informative)

The Great Pretender (975978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35556748)

Caveat - I am not an astronomer. Actually, I agree with the original poster the article is confusing. I believe that they swap the point of reference without announcing they did. While the initial units are in Earth years: "as Titan takes two weeks to go around Saturn and Saturn takes 29 years to complete one circuit of the Sun." They then move to either the Saturn or Titan point of reference, as it would make no sense comparing Earths 'time of year' to a warming period for Titan "McEwan says the atmospheric models predicted that there would be clouds in the equatorial regions at this time of year, as the sun on Titan got warmer. "We saw these clouds suddenly, and then we saw the equatorial area darken," he said." As the warming period for Titan must be associated to Saturns position relative to the Sun I can only assume that this second seasonal reference is based on Staurns orbital year. Which would then also explain why the article claims the seasons are 'years long' as it is talking about Saturn seasons in Earth years.

Re:Years long... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557518)

""McEwan says the atmospheric models predicted that there would be clouds in the equatorial regions at this time of [Saturn] year..."

Yes. Basically, "summer" is coming to Titan -- a long, multi-Earth-year duration summer because Saturn's year is 29 Earth-years long. Titan has apparently just passed the Saturnian equinox, which coincidentally we on Earth just experienced today in our annual seasonal cycle. Titan's summer may be its [methane] rainy season.

Re:Years long... (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35561480)

from TFA:

"In tropical regions moisture rises as the sun heats the surface, and it precipitates out as rain, which is why rain forests tend to occur in those latitudes."

"Tend to occur" my ass. First, a rainforest is not always in the tropics. Second, a tropic rainforest, like the ones that 'tend to occur at those latitudes' occurs all around earth in the tropics where there is land because sunlight is maximum all year long- NOT because they get rain all year long. A high fraction of the water that is in the atmosphere above a tropical rainforest area comes from the plants themselves, via their respiration.

I think TFA better get its facts straight.

Re:Years long... (3, Interesting)

tsadi (576706) | more than 3 years ago | (#35556762)

Just a random thought; a day in Titan lasts almost 16 Earth days. If humans evolved in Titan instead, would that mean that we'd spend the equivalent of 16 Earth days awake also, and maybe almost the same amount sleeping?

Re:Years long... (2)

euyis (1521257) | more than 3 years ago | (#35556826)

The latter part is quite fascinating...

Re:Years long... (4, Informative)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35556842)

As far as I'm aware, the evolutionary effects on circadian rhythms on other planetary bodies is a study that has not yet been conducted.

I guess that means the answer to your question is.... maybe.

Re:Years long... (3, Interesting)

Progman3K (515744) | more than 3 years ago | (#35558398)

There was a study where they put a subject in an underground mine (they built him and underground house in there, or lair if you prefer) and only let him have contact through a video link to an operator's booth above.
The operators would be relieved and assigned shifts in a random way so that the subject could not infer how long each operator was present nor how long their shifts were.
After a few weeks/months of this, the subject began having 33-hour days and 11-hour nights.
So the sun really DOES influence human wake/sleep periods. What the 33/11 ratio means is anyone's guess though...

Re:Years long... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35571982)

This really could use a link....a fascinating notion, but some actual citations would go a long way to making this more than anecdotal hearsay and something to be taken seriously.

Re:Years long... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35560552)

I am actually looking to do a study of this, would you look to give me grant money???

Re:Years long... (1)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557300)

One would think that would be the case. Another interesting thought is whether or not they would naturally process everything slower. Their "day" is 16 of our days, but would their consciousness experience it lasting about the same as we experience an earth day? So if we ever met such beings, would they seem to act abnormally slowly?

Re:Years long... (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557648)

You mean Los verdes?

(Reference to Pluton B.R.B Nero, a series you probably don't know, since AFAIK it never got English subs. It's Alex de la Iglesia's shot at space comedy. A sort of Spanish Red Dwarf, except Lorna is so much hotter than Kochanski ;) . It was absolutely brilliant, if you can find subs or understand some Spanish, you should definitely take a look at it. Specially if you enjoy Alex's movies, It's as clever as the Oxford Murders, as funny as El dia de la Bestia, and as bizarre as Mutant Action).

Re:Years long... (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557656)

Well, forgot to explain the actual reference.

In an Episode, they reach a planet that is 100 times the size of the earth, and it's inhabited by a humanoid species whose individuals seem to be motionless, but they are actually just incredibly slow.

Re:Years long... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#35558366)

I doubt it. People living in the Arctic circle don't sleep for 6 months.

Re:Years long... (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35559970)

Polar night varies from 20 hours at the Arctic Circle to 179 days at the pole, places like Barrow Alaska do polar night for 65 days, but that doesn't mean it's night outside every where, it gets a strange twilight for most of the area.

Past 84 33' theres no twilight, but there are no permanent human settlements that far north/south, just science stations.

Re:Years long... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#35569122)

It was an offhand comment, I also missed the part about "if humans evolved on Tiatan", so my comparison was kinda irrelevant since humans did not evolve in the polar regions, rather they just moved there when technology allowed them to.

Re:Years long... (1)

HaZardman27 (1521119) | more than 3 years ago | (#35561690)

Who really knows what we would be doing for sleep considering we'd bath in methane.

Re:Years long... (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557118)

Years on Titan are the same as years on Saturn. A day on Titan is the same period as an orbit around Saturn. Years are important on Earth, Saturn and Titan because the axial tilt makes the sun move from North to South and back. Additionally the eccentricity in the orbit makes the planet move towards and away from the sun. The rainy season on Titan may actually last for Earth years. But particular period of rain may go for hours, days or weeks.

Re:Years long... (2)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35558850)

First to answer your question:
The terms used ARE confusing because the terms "day", "month" and "year" are all relative to what planet you're talking about.

Saturn's year (1 circuit around the sun) is 29 Earth-years, approximately.

Saturn is, like earth, tilted about 26 degrees on its axis, so it would have 'seasons' approximately in the same way that earth does - as it goes around in its orbit, the sun would be shining directly on the northern hemisphere and southern hemispheres, alternately, with the solstices being about 14.5 years apart (ie summer to winter in one hemisphere, analogous to June/December on Earth).

Titan (as far as I can tell) orbits almost exactly around Saturn's equator, so it too is inclined 26 degrees to the Sun.

Its orbital period (the amount of time it takes to go around Saturn) is 16 earth-days. So a "month" according to Titan, is 16 earth days.

Since it's geosynchronous (like our Moon) one face always points at Saturn, so a Titan-day (from sunrise to sunrise) is the same as a Titan-month - about 16 earth days.

Titan goes around Saturn 672 times over the course of Saturn's complete circuit of the Sun. So this means that Titan's seasons (assuming they're each 1/4 of the year like earth), are each 168 "Titan days", which are each about 16 Earth days long.

Does that help?

Second, I RTFA'd and I didn't understand how they got to some of their conclusions. For example they saw Cassini's early imagery of Titan, interpreted that they were seeing "dunes" and concluded that weather was scarce. Perhaps it's my MN origins, but "dunes" are not a great deal different from "snowdrifts", are they? And if the "dunes" were drifts, this would suggest the exact opposite, climatologically - an aeolian surface with regular precipitation.

Re:Years long... (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 3 years ago | (#35559420)

Titan (as far as I can tell) orbits almost exactly around Saturn's equator, so it too is inclined 26 degrees to the Sun.

The only major satellite that does not orbit very near its planet's equatorial plane is Earth's Moon.

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/File:Earth-Moon.PNG [wikimedia.org]

Re:Years long... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35560682)

Since it's tidally locked (like our Moon

FTFY.

Re:Years long... (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35563356)

Whups thanks.
Was mentally thinking that its rotation was synchronus...definitely a goof saying 'geosynchronus'. Wow. Monday.

All together now... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35556860)

Raindrops keep falling on my head....AAAAAaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Re:All together now... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557010)

A little methane never hurt anyone.

Re:All together now... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557168)

A little methane never hurt anyone.

True... But we're talking a lot of methane, liquid methane at -180 degrees C; enough to carve channels in the landscape and form lakes. It's not just a little methane.

Re:All together now... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557088)

....AAAAAaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

I like your version better.

Re:All together now... (2)

burisch_research (1095299) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557126)

Methane on Titan would flash-freeze you, since Titan's temperature is around 93.7 K (179.5 C), so AAAAAaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh is quite apt. Let's not forget that you'd have nothing to breathe, either.

Re:All together now... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557140)

Methane on Titan would flash-freeze you, since Titan's temperature is around 93.7 K (179.5 C).

I think you mean -179.5 C but think of it this way. Titan is about twice as cold as the coldest place on Earth. I once had a job collecting data from remote weather stations in Antarctica. One day a station reported -75C.

Re:All together now... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557358)

It doesn't really make any sense to describe something as "twice as cold", especially when you're using a scale based on an arbitrary zero point.

It does make sense to say that the coldest place on Earth is twice as warm as Titan, though.

Re:All together now... (1)

atrain728 (1835698) | more than 3 years ago | (#35559938)

Also accepting "half as warm."

Although GP did not state it, the -75C temperature cited is 198K, which is a little more than twice as warm as Titan. Kelvin has a non-arbitrary zero point. (I am not insinuating that you dispute any of this, just making the GP's point perhaps a little more clear in light of the semantics lesson.)

Re:All together now... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35569946)

Wikipedia gives 184 K (-89.2 C) as the coldest temperature on Earth and I suppose people would walk around with just very warm clothing on at that temperature. For a while, anyway. So my point (if I have one) is that while 93K sounds cold its actually not beyond possibility that a person could walk around on Titan with a bottle of oxygen and some well insulated clothing. Heated boots would be a good idea. Wear mittens, not gloves.

Re:All together now... (2)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557586)

Let's not forget that you'd have nothing to breathe, either.

Maybe he was dictating?

We can breathe (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35556908)

We have seen pictures where there is rain, we believe, and if so that means there is water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe.

Furthermore, oxygen will react. It's only because of plants that oxygen remains in the atmosphere, so if we can breathe it means there are plants. That means there are plants on Titan. If there are plants, they could be producing any variety of goods. It is also likely that the plants are owned by the Chinese, because no one else makes anything anymore. My question for the American People is, what are the Chinese making on Titan? Why the secrecy? Only the guilty have anything to hide. Since it is our duty to bring the guilty to justice, we must act swiftly!

God farts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35556912)

So, who made the methane on Titan?

Are these liquified god farts?

Re:God farts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35556932)

queue the stupid Uranus jokes...

Re:God farts? (3, Informative)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 3 years ago | (#35556970)

Methane is not exclusively produced by biological organisms anymore than oxygen is exclusively produced by plants and trees. The process by which methane is thought to be produced on other planets, moons, etc. is abiotic.

Furthermore, only 1-10% of a fart is methane. Interestingly enough, that is not the part that smells bad. It is the trace gases that give it the smell.

Re:God farts? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557062)

Makes me wonder if there could be "Fossil Oxidisers" on Titan, analogous to the fossil fuels on Earth. Maybe oxidisers could be found under ground and dug up so colonists could run their SUVs on Methane.

Re:God farts? (4, Funny)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557094)

It is the trace gases that give it the smell.

And here I thought it was because it was air that came out of your ass that made it smell bad.

NASA Picks Up Rainstorms On Titan (1)

pop up gazebo (2022184) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557002)

To some extent, i just wanna say that this post "NASA Picks Up Rainstorms On Titan" brings us much more pleasure for our daily life.

are we there yet (1)

diaflux (1058774) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557014)

Unclaimed hydrocarbon rain on Titan?! Europa is a giant ball of water? Jupiter and Saturn have magnetospheric energy strong enough to power as many crafts as we would like (positioned accordingly of course) Not to mention the added bonus of a radiation shield from solar wind and CMEs. Somebody build a station in orbit for local planetary exploration already. Oh, and the ISS is being used as a lab for experimentation, another station is needed for this as the ISS is busy enough as it is. It's not like we have to build something on the ground and launch the entire payload anymore... seriously lets go, private industries are not dependent on international government organizations for delivery of payloads into orbit. This is nothing new. I'm sure many people would be willing to take their chances in orbit around Titan, or even explore Jupiter's moons with current knowledge of the radiation belt locations of each planet.

Re:are we there yet (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557216)

We haven't got the technology to do it. Nobody does.

The gas giants are a long way away, and even with magical future-tech nuclear-electric engines several orders of magnitude more powerful than the ones we can build today, it'd still take over a year to get to them. If you're using something more realistic for a near future launch, like a combination of chemical rockets and solar-electric, you'd be talking about travel times close to a full decade.

Long travel times like that are a death sentence for astronauts, until we invent better radiation shielding.

To boldly go - (1)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35558952)

My employer (disclosure) has a proposal out for a NASA discovery-class mission to put a boat (yes, a boat) on the surface methane seas of Titan;

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8409052.stm [bbc.co.uk]
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2010LPI....41.1236S [harvard.edu]
http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/01/carnival-of-space-135-proposed-titan.html [nextbigfuture.com]

It's called the Titan Mare Explorer (TiME) and let me just say, it's the coolest thing that I've ever come anywhere near close to working on. Not much of a Catholic anymore but I say a littler prayer each night that NASA selects this proposal to go forward. (They are due to announce next month. Write your congressperson!)

So it's not impossible, it's actually do-able, and it's not very logical to carp about whether it's convenient or fun for astronauts to go, as we've got a tremendous amount left to learn from automated missions before we contemplate sending people there. Besides, when TiME sends back the first live footage of the ravenous methane kraken, I'm sure everyone will be glad that astronauts were not part of the first payload.

Re:To boldly go - (1)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 3 years ago | (#35559492)

The ggp was talking about putting a manned space station around jupiter or saturn without government assistance. We really don't have the tech to do that. We could make an attempt at it with current tech, and it might work if we were lucky, but it would be very slow, the chances wouldn't be good, and it would be loltastically expensive.

Shunting robots about the solar system is three or four orders of magnitude easier, plus one more order of magnitude if you are getting some form of government backing.

Re:are we there yet (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35558212)

WAY too far away, my friend. Titan could be made of petroleum and gold and it still wouldn't be worth the effort.

Re:are we there yet (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 3 years ago | (#35559528)

Jupiter and Saturn have magnetospheric energy strong enough to power as many crafts as we would like (positioned accordingly of course)

Nope, Saturn's magnetic field is actually less powerful than Earth's, although it is much larger. From Wiki:

Saturn has an intrinsic magnetic field that has a simple, symmetric shape—a magnetic dipole. Its strength at the equator—0.2 gauss (20 T)—is approximately one twentieth than that of the field around Jupiter and slightly weaker than Earth's magnetic field. As a result Saturn's magnetosphere is much smaller than Jupiter's and extends slightly beyond the orbit of Titan. Most probably, the magnetic field is generated similarly to that of Jupiter—by currents in the metallic-hydrogen layer, which is called a metallic-hydrogen dynamo. Similarly to those of other planets, this magnetosphere is efficient at deflecting the solar wind particles from the Sun. The moon Titan orbits within the outer part of Saturn's magnetosphere and contributes plasma from the ionized particles in Titan's outer atmosphere.

Re:are we there yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35562234)

Not to mention the added bonus of a radiation shield from solar wind and CMEs

Being that close to either, your bigger concern would be the intense radiation produced by the planets' own magnetospheres.

no practical reason? (3, Insightful)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557092)

Why do people always say that there is no practical reason for space exploration? I just don't get it.
Titan is a wonderful example. A planet with literally 100's of times more hydrocarbons than Earth. That seems like a reasonable excuse to go there and develop mining and extraction techniques.
You can get never get to the point where space exploitation makes sense unless you start.

Re:no practical reason? (1)

j_sp_r (656354) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557106)

Shipping tons of hydrocarbons to earth doesn't sound like the best plan to me. It would decrease oxygen levels and increase CO2 if done in big enough numbers.

Re:no practical reason? (3, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557128)

GP didn't say they had to go to Earth. Those gasses would go a long way on Mars or Luna.

(See Imperial Earth by Arthur C Clarke for a good book on the subject)

Re:no practical reason? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557370)

GP didn't say they had to go to Earth. Those gasses would go a long way on Mars or Luna.

Where there's already no free oxygen to burn them with, so they'd be pretty much useless as fuel.

Re:no practical reason? (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557442)

GP didn't say they had to go to Earth. Those gasses would go a long way on Mars or Luna.

Where there's already no free oxygen to burn them with, so they'd be pretty much useless as fuel.

Handy as an atmosphere though. Methane is a great greenhouse gas.

Re:no practical reason? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35558740)

The Moon has a lot of oxygen. Any mining process which extracts metals from lunar crust will create oxygen as a byproduct.

Re:no practical reason? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557598)

Imperial Earth by Arthur C Clark

Oh, I've read that book, but I didn't know it was written by him. Although this story did remind me of it immediately.

Re:no practical reason? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35562898)

You don't ship the fuel, you setup an automated processing plant on Titan and beam the energy back via microwaves or lasers.

Re:no practical reason? (1)

diaflux (1058774) | more than 3 years ago | (#35579602)

Shipping tons of hydrocarbons to earth would certainly be a waste of time, in the context of using it as a combustible fuel in our atmosphere. Look at it as a resource in other ways. How about a valuable local resource for generating new materials. This is just one compound of many, sitting there, with plenty of energy on hand to use.

Re:no practical reason? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557172)

That seems like a reasonable excuse to go there and develop mining and extraction techniques.

You seem to be underestimating the cost of escaping a gravity well.
Even if Titan were made of Gold it still wouldn't be worth it.

At least until (if ever) we get Project Orion [wikipedia.org] going again.

Re:no practical reason? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557180)

You could scoop gases from the atmosphere. In effect, aerobraking and mining at the same time. Judge it right and you could return to the inner solar system without using much fuel. If your spacecraft uses nuclear engines the gas you collect could be used immediately as a reaction mass.

Re:no practical reason? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557242)

Do you really want to pay fuel prices above 200 million USD per litre?

Re:no practical reason? (0)

SoftGLOW (2022326) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557682)

Maybe we should just bomb Titan for the "oil". I mean, there's no crackpot dictator (that we know of) but a proactive preemptive strike probably wouldn't hurt would it?

Re:no practical reason? (1)

KeensMustard (655606) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557492)

Why do people always say that there is no practical reason for space exploration? I just don't get it.

Hard to say without finding someone who is actually saying that. Mostly I just hear people saying that there is no practical reason for sending humans to do a robots job.

Titan is a wonderful example. A planet with literally 100's of times more hydrocarbons than Earth. That seems like a reasonable excuse to go there and develop mining and extraction techniques.

Well, Titan isn't a planet. Also it isn't possible to carry enough methane (by mass) to make it worthwhile to transport from Titan. It would take more energy to transport to the inner planets then we could gain from the cargo, meaning it's cheaper to manufacture on-site.

Re:no practical reason? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557920)

Titan is a wonderful example. A planet with literally 100's of times more hydrocarbons than Earth. That seems like a reasonable excuse to go there and develop mining and extraction techniques.

Well, Titan isn't a planet. Also it isn't possible to carry enough methane (by mass) to make it worthwhile to transport from Titan. It would take more energy to transport to the inner planets then we could gain from the cargo, meaning it's cheaper to manufacture on-site.

To be fair on the original poster, he never said anything about transporting it back to Earth. But using the stuff locally to produce the next generation of iPads and then shipping those back to Earth might make economical sense. Well, something like that.

Re:no practical reason? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35559338)

Manufacture goods there. Ship them via solar sail.

Re:no practical reason? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557544)

Lol... ERORI = [big negative number]

Run the calculations on how much it would cost to ship fuel off a planet to, well, anywhere. Nobody would be able to afford space gas, even if you could get ERORI above zero.

Re:no practical reason? (3, Informative)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35557796)

2 things:

1. pure science for the sake of pure science always eventually winds up making incredible discoveries that alter history and result in trillions of dollars of economic activity. that's why worrying about "no practical reason" is silly: it just means the person raising the issue doesn't understand science or history

2. mining hydrocarbons on titan, and taking them somewhere else: anywhere, even just another moon of saturn, is completely ridiculous. its like flying from LA to Hong Kong to get your lunch time sandwich. you need an oxidizer too

Re:no practical reason? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35561338)

2. mining hydrocarbons on titan, and taking them somewhere else: anywhere, even just another moon of saturn, is completely ridiculous. its like flying from LA to Hong Kong to get your lunch time sandwich. you need an oxidizer too

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Just how do you mean that, sir?
-- The Graduate [imdb.com]

So I guess the questions are

  • what's a cheap source of oxidizer? Say, perhaps, numerous icy bodies in perhaps a large collection of small particles in a ring like orbit of a nearby planet?
  • what kinds of plastics can be made without consuming said oxidizer?
  • how expensive would it be to make giant ballons out of various plastic, filled with hydrogen from the cracking of ice water for the oxygen, to collect by an orbital transfer craft towing a skyhook for lifting to an orbital processing factory?
  • And finally, what's the deltaV cost needed to move products from there? It only has to be less than shooting stuff up from Earth to make economic sense.

Re:no practical reason? (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35562868)

it's like medieval mankind inventing guns, rockets, and laser cannons...

all in order to go to endor to get more wood to make bows and arrows

what the hell is wrong with you? seriously. you think its valid to get all this technology together, to go to titan, to get hydrocarbons!?

are you gw bush? i know the usa has a petroleum addiction, but this is hilarious

Re:no practical reason? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35561448)

2. mining hydrocarbons on titan, and taking them somewhere else: anywhere, even just another moon of saturn, is completely ridiculous. its like flying from LA to Hong Kong to get your lunch time sandwich. you need an oxidizer too

It seems ridiculous because the cost of space travel is ridiculous. But, I don't think it's any more ridiculous than shipping the materials for a Prius around the world. It makes sense if the cost is covered. Eventually, space travel will get cheaper.

Re:no practical reason? (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35562928)

yes. and the time space travel is cheap enough to go to titan, the idea of going there to export hydrocarbons will make as much sense as inventing guns, rockets and laser cannons to go to endor to get more wood to make bows and arrows

you're imagining that it will be useful to use advanced technology to solve the problems of a dying technological era. the petroleum age is ending dude. by the time we're going to titan cheaply, we'll all have fusion power generators in our pockets

Re:no practical reason? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557910)

Your political bias is showing. We have no practical way of mining Titan and bringing significant quantities of natural gas back to Earth. And do you see a tiny little incongruity here? The sci-fi dream of mining other planets... to get chemicals to burn in combustion engines? Not exactly Star Trek, is it?

you call this 'weather'? still not happy? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557148)

we knew this would happen?

Reply to This
what about media based FEAR/DEATH mongering (Score:mynutswon; not here you don't)
by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 19, @09:28AM
some of us could get along without that too. fear generation(al) is much
more disastrous than disasters whether/weather natural, or MANufactured.
it (fear) does generate even more FEAR, mammon, the need for EVEN MORE
'defense' (from ourselves/unidentifiable 'enemies'?) when stuff blows up,
goes under water etc.., so that's good?

everyone is ?afraid? to discuss (0 mention anywhere) all of us disarming
ourselves? curious? not really. considering....

fortunately we have an allknowingcaretakingexpandingoverseer.biz.gov to
help us sort out our unfoundead fears?

babys rule. the more the better. they know stuff too. that's so simple. so
simple as to extract the pee out of the nazi mutant eugenatics 'math',
which quite possibly helps the rulers' gregorian 'calender' (took almost 6
months to author), abstracting (an attempt) our time itself? is that whack
or what? ascared? how would we know (anything else?)?

so, we'll then expect to see you at any one of the million babys+
play-dates, conscience arisings, georgia stone editing(s), & a host of
other life promoting/loving events. guaranteed to activate all of our
sense(s) at once. perhaps you have seen our list of pure intentions for
you /us, beginning with disarmament?

just kidding? not at all

GeorgiaStoneMasons, 'chosen ones', in cahoots? (Score:0)
by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, @09:12AM (#35528686)
the GSM get their tiny (ie; selfish, stingy, eugenatic, fake math) .5
billion remaining population, & the money/weapons/vaccine/deception/fake
'weather' alchemist/genetically altered nazi mutant goon exchangers, get
us? yikes

the 'fog' is lifting? more chariots will be needed?

ALL (uninfactdead) MOMMYS......

the georgia stone remains uneditable? gad zooks. are there no chisels?

previous math discardead; 1+1 extrapolated (Score:-1)
by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, @10:59PM (#35487476)
deepends on how you interpret it. georgia stone freemason 'math'; the
variables & totals are objective oriented; oranges: 1+1= not enough,
somebody's gotta die. people; 1+1=2, until you get to .5 billion, then
1+1=2 too many, or, unless, & this is what always happens, they breed
uncontrolled, naturally (like monkeys), then, 1+1=could easily result in
millions of non-approved, hoardsplitting spawn. see the dilemma? can
'math', or man'kind' stand even one more League of Smelly Infants being
born?

there are alternative equations being proffered. the deities (god, allah,
yahweh, buddha, & all their supporting castes) state in their manuals that
we needn't trouble ourselves with thinning the population, or being so
afraid as to need to hoard stuff/steal everything. chosen people? chosen
for what? to live instead of us? in the case of life, more is always
better. unassailable perfect math. see you at the play-dates, georgia
stone editing(s) etc... babys rule.

exploding babys; corepirate nazis to be caged (Score:-1)
by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 13, @10:50PM (#35476142)
there are plans to put them, (the genetically, surgically & chemically
altered coreprate nazi mutant fear/death mongerers (aka47; eugenatics,
weapons peddlers, kings/minions, adrians, freemasons etc...)) on display
in glass cages, around the world, so that we can remember not to forget...
again, what can happen, based on greed/fear/ego stoking deception.

viewing/feeding will be rationed based on how many more of the creators'
innocents are damaged, or have to be brought home (& they DO have another
one) prematurely.

excess could wreck another planet in 400 years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557184)

black hole builders? ungrateful? misinformed. what?

this planet was relatively pristine (other than spiritually) in the 1600's. many think we're not supposed to need a 'new one' yet. the unwarranted taking of life (motive) throws the whole cosmos in a spin. there's stuff we need out there, it's being delivered now.

like if anybody lived 400 years we'd give a poop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557660)

right

It's rain, Jim, but not as we know it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557164)

Not as we know it

Whew, just in time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557772)

When our oil runs out and it's time to colonize the Galaxy, we can extract Titan's natural gas to power our rockets.

It's raining methane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35557828)

Hallelujah!!!

Would have imagined it's wet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35558564)

Hence, sirens!

As Always when I pick a place (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35558626)

Great! There goes my vacations plans this summer.

(rolls up piece of paper into a ball and throws it at the wall)

Weather (2)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35560402)

So what you're really telling me is - they can tell me its raining on Titan, but I can't seem to get reliable weather forcasts here.

Re:Weather (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35561910)

We know when it's raining on earth too.

Re:Weather (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35562046)

They can tell you that it's raining here too. For that matter, so can my pet rock. (Whenever it's wet)

Re:Weather (1)

volcanopele (537152) | more than 2 years ago | (#35565900)

We can't make reliable weather forecasts for Titan either... But at least we have an excuse, we've only observed Titan's weather patterns from the Titan equivalent of mid-December (when Earth-based observations of sufficient resolution began in 2002) to the equivalent of early- to mid-April (where we are now). And even then the data set (even from Cassini) is pretty sporadic. But I do have one reliable way of knowing when there won't be clouds on Titan. Acquire images of it with an observation with the word "CLOUD" in it, like ISS_147TI_CLOUD002_PRIME

If the price of gas keeps raising (1)

GarryFre (886347) | more than 3 years ago | (#35563416)

It won't be long before it might be worth it to go to Titan to fill up.

Where are all the cows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35563942)

I've been told for years that methane in the atmosphere on Earth is primarily caused by cows and is a major source of "global warming". So where are all the cows on Titan? And where is all the cry about global Titan warming?

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