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NASA Discovers Strange Methane Sea On Saturn's Moon Titan

May 02, 2016 05:00 AM EDT
Cassini Spacecraft Reveals Titan Surface Details
UNDATED: This undated NASA handout shows Saturn's moon, Titan, in ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths. The Cassini spacecraft took the image while on its mission to. gather information on Saturn, its rings, atmosphere and moons. The different colors represent various atmospheric content on Titan.
(Photo : NASA via Getty Images)

Saturn's moon, Titan, is looking more identical to Earth as NASA recently discovered that it has a strange-looking sea. However, unlike Earth where the sea is composed of water, Titan's sea and other liquid formations are filled with methane.

Using the latest data from NASA/ESA Cassini-Huygens mission, scientists have confirmed that liquid bodies such as lakes and seas are mostly composed of methane. According to NASA, Titan currently has three large seas, which are located near its north pole. The second largest of the three seas is called Ligeia Mare.

Through a study, published in the Journal of Geophyiscal Research: Planets, which used the Cassini radar in a different mode, scientists have confirmed that Ligeia Mare is mostly composed of methane. However, methane acts differently in Titan and in Earth.

The study used the data from the Cassini radar between 2007 and 2015. They determined the composition of Ligeia Mare by analyzing the temperature or heat given off by the said ocean.

Gizmodo explains that the seas in Titan, such as Ligeia Mare, is filled up via a similar method on Earth -- rain. However, this is rain made of pure methane. Alice Le Gall, a member of the Cassini radar team, said that this discovery puts an end to the speculation that the liquid bodies on Titan are made up of ethane. In the past, scientists thought that Ligeia Mare would be mostly made up of ethane, which is produced when methane is broken down by the sun.

NASA also noted that Titan's methane sea is very similar to those on Earth and suspects that the weather in these areas is also similar in our planet.

To recall, Saturn's moon Titan shows similar characteristics like Earth when it comes to having atmospheres composed mainly of nitrogen and large liquid bodies. However, unlike Earth, Titan has low oxygen content.

"It's a marvelous feat of exploration that we're doing extraterrestrial oceanography on an alien moon. Titan just won't stop surprising us," Steve Wall, deputy lead of the Cassini radar team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory remarked.

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