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Liquid hydrocarbons on Titan

Posted by Richard on August 1, 2008

Scientists analyzing data from the Cassini space probe have discovered that it rains on Saturn's moon Titan, and there's at least one large lake. According to Saturn Daily, the precipitation (and thus the lake) consists of complex liquid hydrocarbons:

"We are quite certain that there is at least one large liquid-filled lake on Titan", stated Professor Ralf Jaumann of the DLR Institute of Planetary Research (DLR-Institut fur Planetenforschung) in Berlin.

"The measurements carried out with the VIMS spectrometer on board the Cassini space probe are all point in the same direction: Close to Titan's south polar region, we have discovered a lake filled with liquid ethane: The lake contains natural gas in a more or less liquid state."

It is likely that the ethane is mixed with other liquids, such as methane or other light hydrocarbons from the alkane series. The newly-discovered lake is called Ontario Lacus, in reference to the 300-kilometre long Lake Ontario near Niagara Falls on the US-Canadian border, because of the similarity in shape between the two.

Complex hydrocarbons. Liquified natural gas. You can make virtually any kind of petroleum product from those raw materials.

Brings to mind a bumper sticker I've seen: "Earth First – We Can Mine the Other Planets Later" 


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