Saturday, May 06, 2006

Saturn's Titan A Desert World, Lacks Methane Oceans Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas
It appears as if the world once herald as harboring oceans of methane is nothing more than a dust bowl consisting of sand. Although nearly a billion miles away from planet Earth, this is a major blow to the future Saturn economy and a temporary setback for humanity.

(Universe Today) Radar images taken when the Cassini spacecraft flew by Titan last October show dunes 330 feet (100 meters) high that run parallel to each other for hundreds of miles at Titan's equator. One dune field runs more than 930 miles (1500 km) long, said Ralph Lorenz of UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

"It's bizarre," Lorenz said. "These images from a moon of Saturn look just like radar images of Namibia or Arabia. Titan's atmosphere is thicker than Earth's, its gravity is lower, its sand is certainly different -- everything is different except for the physical process that forms the dunes and resulting landscape."

Scientists are unsure of what the grains of sand (resembling coffee grounds) exactly consist of. Titan's sand could consist of organic compounds, water ice, or even a mixture of both. There was hope that potential rain may provide a resource for methane oceans, but further analysis reveals that rain is just as common on the world as the Sahara desert.

(Universe Today) Observations and models of Titan show that clouds and rain are rare. That means that individual storms could be large and still yield a low average rainfall, Lorenz explained.

When the UA-led Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) team produced images taken during the Huygens probe landing on Titan in January 2005, the world saw gullies, streambeds and canyons in the landscape. These same features on Titan have been seen with radar.

These features show that when it does rain on Titan, it rains in very energetic events, just as it does in the Arizona desert, Lorenz said.

If Titan did posses oceans of methane, then it would have been able to fund future projects to colonize Uranus, Neptune Pluto and beyond. It seems as if this economic jumpstart may no longer be available for humanity to exploit, so unless a new resource comes along, there will be little motivation to colonize any worlds beyond Saturn.

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