Floating Ice on Titan Lakes? This artist’s concept envisions what hydrocarbon ice forming on a liquid hydrocarbon sea of Saturn’s moon Titan might look like. A new model from scientists on NASA’s Cassini mission suggests that clumps of methane-and-ethane-rich ice — shown here as the lighter-colored clusters — could float under some conditions. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS

Different Looks for Titan Lakes Lakes on Saturn’s moon Titan reflect radio waves in varying ways in this image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Scientists think the variations in reflectivity, or brightness, have to do with the smoothness or texture of the surface. If a lake is fully liquid, it looks dark, but if it is only partially liquid, it looks brighter. In this image taken from Titan’s high northern latitudes on May 22, 2012, the lakes on the left are full of liquid hydrocarbons and the lakes on the top right are only partially filled, or represent saturated ground (i.e., a mudflat). The lakes in this image are each about 35 to 45 kilometers (22 to 30 miles) across, or about the size of Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border. Some of the differences in reflectivity could also be explained by the presence of floating hydrocarbon ice. This image was obtained by Cassini’s radar mapper at a scale of about 350 meters (1,100 feet) per pixel. It is presented in polar stereographic projection with a logarithmic stretch. For perspective, a wider view of these lakes can be seen in PIA16167. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell

Cassini Suggests Icing on a Lake


It’s not exactly icing on a cake, but it could be icing on a lake. A new paper by scientists on NASA’s Cassini mission finds that blocks of hydrocarbon ice might decorate the surface of existing lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbon on Saturn’s moon Titan. The presence of ice floes might explain some of the mixed readings Cassini has seen in the reflectivity of the surfaces of lakes on Titan.

“One of the most intriguing questions about these lakes and seas is whether they might host an exotic form of life,” said Jonathan Lunine, a paper co-author and Cassini interdisciplinary Titan scientist at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. “And the formation of floating hydrocarbon ice will provide an opportunity for interesting chemistry along the boundary between liquid and solid, a boundary that may have been important in the origin of terrestrial life.”

Read more: NASA – Cassini Suggests Icing on a Lake.

Home           Top of page