Titan’s lakes might be fizzing with nitrogen bubbles

A shot by Cassini of the lakes Kraken Mare and Ligeia Mare near Titan’s north pole. Credit: NASA

The results are relevant for future lander-probes to Titan – and to understand the surface chemistry of the only other body in the Solar System known to have liquids on its surface.

Titan’s chemical orgies

Saturn in the background of Titan, its largest moon. Credit: gsfc/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

New studies of Saturn’s moon Titan should make it more familiar – but the more we learn about it, the more outlandish Titan gets.

A submarine on Titan in 2040

Nothing bespeaks humankind’s potential more than the following statement: Around 2040, NASA plans to splash down a submarine to explore a liquid hydrocarbon lake on Titan. Fore more than a decade now, Titan has captivated astronomers not simply by being Saturn’s largest moon by far but also with its vast seas of liquid methane and ethane. NASA has its eyes on the largest such lake, called Kraken Mare, located near the moon’s north pole. The Cassini mission helped map the lake in great detail since it reached the Saturnian system in 2004, accompanied by the Huygens… Read More

Life on Titan’s world of goo

In the August 8 issue of Science, an international team of scientists has a paper that submits evidence of life in an asphalt lake in Trinidad. Despite having a low water content of 13.5%, it still possesses methane-digesting microbes huddled up in tiny water droplets. One of the authors, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, speculates in an Air & Space Magazine article that the find could have important implications for Saturn’s moon Titan, which is wrapped in chemistries similar to what was found in the lake minus the presence of liquid water. In fact, its atmosphere… Read More

Life on Titan’s world of goo

In the August 8 issue of Science, an international team of scientists has a paper that submits evidence of life in an asphalt lake in Trinidad. Despite having a low water content of 13.5%, it still possesses methane-digesting microbes huddled up in tiny water droplets. One of the authors, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, speculates in an Air & Space Magazine article that the find could have important implications for Saturn’s moon Titan, which is wrapped in chemistries similar to what was found in the lake minus the presence of liquid water. In fact, its atmosphere… Read More

After less than 100 days, Curiosity renews interest in Martian methane

A version of this story, as written by me, appeared in The Hindu on November 15, 2012. — In the last week of October, the Mars rover Curiosity announced that there was no methane on Mars. The rover’s conclusion is only a preliminary verdict, although it is already controversial because of the implications of the gas’s discovery (or non-discovery). The presence of methane is one of the most important prerequisites for life to have existed in the planet’s past. The interest in the notion was increased when Curiosity found signs that water… Read More