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The First Photograph of an Extraterrestrial Lake

The picture above was taken by NASA’s Cassini space probe of Titan, a moon of Saturn. The glint of light at the top of the moon is of a lake — the first non-Earth lake ever seen. In Popular Science, Jeremy Hsu writes:

A haze of methane enshrouds Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, and prevents scientists from seeing most sunlight reflections off the surface. But NASA’s Cassini orbiter managed to snap a stunning image of sunlight glinting off a huge, liquid methane lake — a smoking gun that confirms liquid in the northern hemisphere.

Titan remains the only other planetary body besides Earth known to have liquid on its surface, and appears eerily similar to our world as far as rain and other weather patterns. But instead of liquid water, methane and ethane drizzle down from Titan’s atmosphere and fill the many lakes dotting the moon.

The newly revealed visual and infrared image was taken back on July 8, just as the sun had begun to directly shine upon the northern lakes near the start of spring on Titan. Scientists matched the reflection to the southern shoreline of Kraken Mare, a lake that covers almost 150,000 square miles and sits in the northern hemisphere.

Link | Photo: NASA

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December 18th, 2009

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Stranger to the World

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