Feeds

Cassini spots Titan ‘mini-Nile’

Largest off-Earth river seen so far

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual 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. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success
LOHAN slips into some sexy bespoke mission parameters
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.