Feeds

Cassini spots Titan ‘mini-Nile’

Largest off-Earth river seen so far

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

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. ®

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.