Thursday, December 18, 2008

'Ice volcanoes' discovered in Saturn system

NASA's Cassini probe has found "tantalizing evidence of ice volcanoes" on the Saturn moon, Titan reports the BBC. These "cryovolcanoes" probably "ooze a slurry made of water ice, ammonia and methane," with flows up to 200 meters thick.

Conclusive evidence of ice volcanoes on Titan is tough to come by, as the moon is shrouded in dense mist. So NASA researchers must rely on Cassini's Infrared Mapping Spectrometer to reach their conclusions. One critic suggests the "flow-like features" detected by Cassini are "icy debris… lubricated by methane rain and transported down-slope into sinuous piles like mudflows."

Whatever's happening on Titan, it seems as though there's a dynamic, wet environment beneath a churning cloud cover. And what fascinates Pound360 is that this isn't happening in a different solar system or galaxy, but three planets away from us. Imagine what's beyond our neighborhood.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.