Feeds

Cassini spots Titan ‘mini-Nile’

Largest off-Earth river seen so far

Remote control for virtualized desktops

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has sent back images of what the space agency says is “the first time images have revealed a river system this vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth”.

NASA image mini-Nile

NASA image: Mini-Nile on Titan

The river system on Saturn’s moon Titan has tickled the scientists because of its resemblance to the river Nile: the “mini-Nile” is more than 400 km long and includes a spreading delta where it empties into a sea.

Don’t, however, expect to spot a Titanian Cleopatra dragging lazy fingers behind a slave-paddled boat: the river itself is probably liquid hydrocarbons, NASA says, based on the dark colours in the image and the apparently-smooth surface. Titan’s “water cycle” – except of course that it’s not water – involves ethane and methane rather than H2O.

In its press announcement, NASA suggests that the river’s path also reveals something of the ground underneath.

“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 this same Titan sea,” said Jani Radebaugh, a Cassini radar team associate at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

“Such faults - fractures in Titan's bedrock -- may not imply plate tectonics, like on Earth, but still lead to the opening of basins and perhaps to the formation of the giant seas themselves.”

The image shows Titan’s north polar region, with the river flowing into the Ligeia Mare, a sea of a size between the Caspian and the Mediterranean.

While the river's length is tiny compared to the Nile's 6,700 km, the Earthly river's course, like the one on Titan, is partly directed by the faults it encounters on its journey, NASA says. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rockin' boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.