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Titan #5 Proto-Earth

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December 31, 2012 in Science


The Titan Connection:*Original Article

“Our solar system has at least 170 moons orbiting the main planets. Before these moons were visited by spacecraft, astronomers expected them to be boring, dead objects devoid of any geologic features. We now know they are fantastic worlds – with features unlike anything seen on Earth: giant sulfur-spewing volcanoes, globally cracked ice-covered surfaces, liquid lakes of hydrocarbons, and colossal watery plumes. Yet many of these worlds are also earthlike and familiar. Titan, the giant moon of Saturn, has often been called an Earth in deep freeze, with cloud systems, lakes, shorelines, drainage fields and even perhaps rain.”


NASA Study Shows Titan and Early Earth Atmospheres Similar

“Organic haze in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon, Titan, is similar to haze in early Earth’s air — haze that may have helped nourish life on our planet– according to a NASA Astrobiology Institute study released Nov. 6, 2006.”


“Earth-like atmosphere and geology. Titan is the only known moon with a fully developed earth-like atmosphere that consists of more than just trace gases. The atmosphere is 98.4 percent nitrogen – the only dense, nitrogen-rich atmosphere in the solar system aside from the Earth’s – with the remaining 1.6 percent composed of methane and trace amounts of other gases such as hydrocarbons.”



“Titan is most akin to Jupiter’s moon Callisto, if Callisto had weather,” Moore added. “Every feature we have seen on Titan can be explained by wind, rain, and meteorite impacts, rather than from internal heating.”



Titan’s Surface Perplex Scientists:

River networks on Titan point to a puzzling geologic history

Findings suggest the surface of Saturn’s largest moon may have undergone a recent transformation.

Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office

July 20, 2012

“For many years, Titan’s thick, methane- and nitrogen-rich atmosphere kept astronomers from seeing what lies beneath. Saturn’s largest moon appeared through telescopes as a hazy orange orb, in contrast to other heavily cratered moons in the solar system.

In 2004, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft — a probe that flies by Titan as it orbits Saturn — penetrated Titan’s haze, providing scientists with their first detailed images of the surface. Radar images revealed an icy terrain carved out over millions of years by rivers of liquid methane, similar to how rivers of water have etched into Earth’s rocky continents.

While images of Titan have revealed its present landscape, very little is known about its geologic past. Now researchers at MIT and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville have analyzed images of Titan’s river networks and determined that in some regions, rivers have created surprisingly little erosion. The researchers say there are two possible explanations: either erosion on Titan is extremely slow, or some other recent phenomena may have wiped out older riverbeds and landforms.

“It’s a surface that should have eroded much more than what we’re seeing, if the river networks have been active for a long time,” says Taylor Perron, the Cecil and Ida Green Assistant Professor of Geology at MIT. “It raises some very interesting questions about what has been happening on Titan in the last billion years.”


Titan’s Nile-Like River Valley

This image below from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows a vast river system on Saturn’s moon Titan. It is the first time images from space have revealed a river system so vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth. The image was acquired on Sept. 26, 2012, on Cassini’s 87th close flyby of Titan. The river valley crosses Titan’s north polar region and runs into Ligeia Mare, one of the three great seas in the high northern latitudes of Saturn’s moon Titan. It stretches more than 200 miles (400 kilometers).

Scientists deduce that the river is filled with liquid because it appears dark along its entire extent in the high-resolution radar image, indicating a smooth surface. That liquid is presumably ethane mixed with methane, the former having been positively identified in 2008 by Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer at the lake known as Ontario Lacus in Titan’s southern hemisphere. Though there are some short, local meanders, the relative straightness of the river valley suggests it follows the trace of at least one fault, similar to other large rivers running into the southern margin of Ligeia Mare (see PIA10008). Such faults may lead to the opening of basins and perhaps to the formation of the giant seas themselves.



Mystery of Titan’s Missing Craters

“What happened to Titan’s craters? NASA’s Cassini mission should have seen hundreds of impact craters on Saturn’s giant moon, but so far it has only spotted a handful.”

“If Titan were like other dead moons in the outer Solar System, this strip would be scarred by perhaps 100 craters bigger than 20 kilometers across, created by cosmic impacts. But only two appear, meaning the others must have been destroyed.

One is a ring 80 kilometers across called Sinlap. The other, named Menrva, is an impact basin 450 kilometers in diameter and there is a clue to the mystery on its rim – gaps in its ramparts and fluid drainage patterns nearby.

Radar team member Steven Wall at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US, thinks that the gaps have been cut by flowing fluids, probably the liquid methane that is thought to rain down occasionally on Titan. Methane streams might have completely washed away smaller craters.”



Fossilized *Titan Raindrops

The imprints of raindrops preserved in 2.7bn-year-old rock are being used to figure out what the atmosphere was like on the early Earth.

Scientists have used the depressions drops left to calculate how fast they were going as they impacted the ground.

This has allowed them to determine the density of air in ancient times.

This “palaeobarometry” approach, revealed at the AGU Fall Meeting, will help constrain the models that try to simulate conditions in Archaean times.

Earth 2.7 billion years ago was very different from the planet we know today.

It spun much faster, the Moon was closer and the Sun was much weaker. And there were no animals or plants in existence back then; the air was simply not breathable.

“There was probably quite a bit of nitrogen in the atmosphere, like today, but there was no oxygen,” explained Sanjoy Som from Nasa’s Ames Research Center.

“The oxygen was likely replaced by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.

Read more@http://www.bbc.co.uk

“It spun much faster, the Moon was closer and the Sun was much weaker. And there were no animals or plants in existence back then; the air was simply not breathable.”

Or spun about 16x slower, once was a “moon” and much father away from the Sun…

“There was probably quite a bit of nitrogen in the atmosphere, like today, but there was no oxygen,” explained Sanjoy Som from Nasa’s Ames Research Center.
“The oxygen was likely replaced by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.”

“Similarly to Earth, Titan’s atmosphere is mostly nitrogen but there is also methane and many other organic compounds.” European Space Agency


PASADENA, Calif. – As spring continues to unfold at Saturn, April showers on the planet’s largest moon, Titan, have brought methane rain to its equatorial deserts, as revealed in images captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. This is the first time scientists have obtained current evidence of rain soaking Titan’s surface at low latitudes. Extensive rain from large cloud systems, spotted by Cassini’s cameras in late 2010, has apparently darkened the surface of the moon. The best explanation is these areas remained wet after methane rainstorms. NASA.gov

2.7 billion years ago = Callisto/Titan



Titan Much Like Earth [Videos]

Rapid Changes on Saturn’s Moon Titan

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3 responses to Titan #5 Proto-Earth

  1. So if we figure out space we get an endless supply of hydrocarbons? Oil companies are going to be pissed when they discover that they don’t control them all.

    • No need to extract Titan’s hydrocarbons. There is practically an endless amount of energy available for our use here on Earth. The more innovation the better we can optimize use of resources. Those people that attempt to hold monopolies on energy such as oil are prohibiting our full potential of development.

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