Feeds

Is that a lake on Titan?

Book your sailing holiday, now

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

A dark patch on the surface of Titan, moon of Saturn, might be a lake filled with liquid hydrocarbons, astronomers have said.

It might be a lake. Picture: Ciclops

The picture, snapped by the Cassini spacecraft, shows a dark shape 235km by 75km in the moon's southern polar region (the red dot marks the pole itself). Scientists are hesitating to pronounce the object a lake with any kind of certainty, because no open bodies of liquid have yet been found on the moon, despite predictions that they should be there.

However, according to the imaging team: "The shore-like smoothness of its perimeter and its presence in an area where frequent convective storm clouds have been observed by Cassini and Earth-based astronomers make it the best candidate thus far."

Other possible explanations of the feature include it being a sinkhole, or an old volcanic caldera, filled with dark, solid hydrocarbons. It could also be an old lake that has dried up, leaving behind dark hydrocarbon deposits.

One way of finding out for sure whether or not the feature is a lake will be to look for glints of reflected sunlight on the surface. So far, however, the space craft has not been in the right position to see any reflections. A further 39 flybys are planned, and the imaging team says it will be looking at the area again in greater detail. ®

Related stories

Scientists reveal Titanic panorama
Say what you like about Saturn: its moons really have atmosphere
Titan: rains of methane, mountains of ice

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
Get your MOON GEAR: Auction to feature Space Race memorabilia
Keepsakes from early NASA, Soviet programs up for bids
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.