Giant Methane River Found On One Of Saturn’s Moons

 

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has spotted a river system stretching more than 200 miles on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Though it isn’t the Nile — which is more than 20 times as long — the mighty river provides further evidence that this odd little moon is a wet world not unlike our own. Many lakes and small rivers have been found already on Titan but the newly discovered stream is the largest yet and represents the first time scientists have seen such a vast liquid system on any world other than Earth.

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Titan’s mini-Nile doesn’t flow with water, which freezes to be hard as stone on the moon, but rather liquid hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane, which are stable in the moon’s -290 degree Fahrenheit average temperatures. From its headwaters, the flow follows a fault line and runs into the Kraken Mare, one of three gigantic seas that cover Titan’s northern hemisphere. Titan’s liquid cycle also includes seasonal downpours, which have been spotted from orbit. Whether all this liquid improves the chances for life on Titan remains an open mystery.

The enormous image above was acquired on Sept. 26 but only released on Dec. 12.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI

–Darryl

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