Cassini finds alien version of ‘Nile River’ on Titan

Titan’s version of the Nile River stretches across this radar image; part of the Ligeia Mare sea is also visible on the right side of the image. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASI

Want to go river rafting on Titan? The largest moon of Saturn is the only other place in the solar system known to have rivers, lakes and seas on its surface. Appearance-wise, they are eerily similar to their earthly counterparts, but are composed of liquid methane instead of water, in Titan’s extremely cold environment. Now, the Cassini spacecraft has found the largest Titanian river system yet, similar to the Nile River on Earth, as announced on December 12, 2012.

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Boating on Titan: new mission proposal for exploring an alien lake

Radar image of Ligeia Mare, the largest lake on Titan, with associated river channels. Credit: NASA / JPL / USGS

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is in many ways one of the most Earth-like places in the solar system. More like a planet than most moons, it is the only other world, so far anyway, known to have lakes on its surface. Similar to the hydrological cycle on Earth, the lakes are filled by rain, which also creates rivers and streams. Titan, however, is much colder than Earth, so the liquid is methane / ethane, not water.

This discovery has made Titan one of the most fascinating destinations for further exploration. The Cassini spacecraft has increased our knowledge many-fold, but there is only so much that can be done from orbit. But now a new mission proposal may change that, one which would actually send a boat to land in one of the lakes in the northern hemisphere.

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