Friday, August 05, 2005

Saturn moon Titan 'dry as a bone'

Hopes of finding hydrocarbon oceans on Saturn's smoggy moon, Titan, appear to be dashed, scientists report in Nature.

The moon's atmosphere is thick with methane and ethane, prompting speculation that lakes or oceans of these chemicals may sit on the surface.

The Huygens that landed on Titan sent back images suggesting possible shorelines and rivers.

But an extensive search for tell-tale infrared reflections has now revealed no sign of lakes or seas on Titan.

Scientists who made the measurements using the Keck II telescope in Hawaii suggest the flat surfaces previously spotted on Titan are more likely to be solid and dry.


However, the latest observations were focused entirely on Titan's southern hemisphere. It is just possible the northern region may still contain pools of liquid organic material.



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