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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Titan's moon: Pop, pop, fizz, fizz

Titan in True Color   (NASA photo)
Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, not only has “a thick nitrogen atmosphere,” but also has liquid methane lakes.  Its methane cycle is similar to Earth’s water one, producing clouds, rain and bodies of liquid.

The lakes of Titan seem to have islands, just as Earth’s do.  However, Titan’s seem downright magical, in that they appear, disappear, then reappear.

This is reminiscent of the following Zen teaching:  First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.  But what causes this strange phenomenon on Titan?

Scientists now think that it may be due to “regions of a lake where nitrogen is bubbling up to the surface.”  As in soda pop here on Earth, molecules can be trapped within liquid under certain circumstances, then released as a gas under others.  In soda pop the bubbles consist of carbon dioxide (thus the term “carbonated” drinks); In Titan’s lakes they likely consist of frothy nitrogen.

Get enough of this froth in one spot, and an “island” pops up.  When enough dissipates, the “island” simply fizzles out.   


Copyright March 19, 2017 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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