Exploring a hydrocarbon swamp on Titan
A pair of balloon-borne probes leisurely survey a methane-ethane "swamp" on Titan. Each probe carries its own spot light illuminating the terrain below, augmenting the haze-filtered sunlight.
Scientists have long speculated that methane and ethane may exist as liquids on Titan's extremely cold surface, but it wasn't until 2005 that the Cassini spacecraft's radar imager detected what indeed may be large hydrocarbon lakes on Titan's northern latitudes. While it is believed that the liquid in these lakes would be primarily methane and ethane, this won't be confirmed until the lakes--if that's indeed what they are--are actually sampled. Whatever lies on Titan's surface, there is the possibility that the ancient and exotic environment has given rise to compounds heretofore unknown on Earth.
Large quantities of Methane and ethane exist in Earth's relatively warm environment as components of natural gas.
Copyright © Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.
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