Cassini Spots 200 Mile Long Methane River on Saturn's Moon Titan

Posted on December 13, 2012

Scientists with NASA's Cassini mission have spotted a river on Saturn's moon Titan that is over 200 miles long. By comparison, Earth's Nile river is about 4,100 miles long. The radar image above was taken on Sept. 26, 2012. You can see a larger version here.

NASA says this is the first time images have revealed a river system this vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth. Titan's river is filled with liquid hydrocarbons, such as ethane and methane, and not water.

Jani Radebaugh, a Cassini radar team associate at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, said in a NASA release, "Though there are some short, local meanders, the relative straightness of the river valley suggests it follows the trace of at least one fault, similar to other large rivers running into the southern margin of this same Titan sea. Such faults - fractures in Titan's bedrock -- may not imply plate tectonics, like on Earth, but still lead to the opening of basins and perhaps to the formation of the giant seas themselves."

Steve Wall, the radar deputy team lead, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says, "Titan is the only place we've found besides Earth that has a liquid in continuous movement on its surface. This picture gives us a snapshot of a world in motion. Rain falls, and rivers move that rain to lakes and seas, where evaporation starts the cycle all over again. On Earth, the liquid is water; on Titan, it's methane; but on both it affects most everything that happens."I

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