Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The liquid found on Saturn's moon, Titan makes one of the most exciting and challenging discoveries of our century, since besides Earth, this is the second solar body with liquid on the surface in the system. The lake-like formations contain liquid hydrocarbons, most probably ethane according to NASA press release. Cassini spacecraft was the probe to send hundreds of pictures of Saturn and its satellites in its forty close flybys in the area. According to theories, there could be real oceans of methane, ethane and various other hydrocarbons; the dark color of the liquid found on Saturn's moon could only point to these components of crude oil. Nevertheless, the liquid form was not confirmed until a probe reached the surface of Titan in January 2005.
The depth of these pools or lakes of liquid found on Saturn's satellite could be a few or hundreds of feet deep. Infrared scanning by Cassini spacecraft allowed an approximation of the features. Yet, the main question remains as whether this planet can support life or not. Another Saturn moon, Enceladus, revealed cold water geysers issuing from liquid reservoirs lying a little below the frozen soil. Could such discoveries start a new era in the planetary exploration programs? Though life is difficult to imagine in the cold conditions of this icy world, right beneath the surface of Enceladus, all the premises indicate that life is more than possible.
This is the reason why the liquid found on Saturn's Enceladus set the course for new investigations for life in the solar system. Plus, the other prerequisite for life existence on Enceladus, organic materials, is also met: there is methane, ethane, carbon dioxide and several others. Last but not least, near the thermal vents, deep down in Saturn's center, the temperature could also create a favorable environment for the appearance and development of life forms.
The liquid found on Saturn's moons makes the most exciting discovery in the last twenty five years, since volcanic activity was identified on one of Jupiter's satellites. Though the source of the water geysers could not be spotted by the camera of the spacecraft the water and ice sprays were very visible in the sunlight, in the polar region of Enceladus. The same warm-icy model in the structure of comets applies to this liquid found on Saturn's satellite, Enceladus, since the geysers were identified as a combination of ice and hot water vapors.