Titan’s liquid hydrocarbon seas have a global sea level


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New research using Cassini data has revealed that the liquid hydrocarbon oceans of Saturn’s moon Titan have a global sea level, with some small lakes perched at higher elevations.

The new study suggests that elevation is important because Titan’s liquid bodies appear to be connected under the surface in something akin to an aquifer system at Earth. Hydrocarbons appear to be flowing underneath Titan’s surface similar to the way water flows through underground porous rock or gravel on Earth, so that nearby lakes communicate with each other and share a common liquid level.

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6 comments

  • Localfluff

    There seems to be lots of caves around in the Solar System for spelunkers like you to explore.

  • Phill O

    The existence of such large quantities of hydrocarbons in the solar system sure puts in question the theory that our carbon reserves come from biological mechanisms. Looking at the hydrocarbon profile and knowing that for the different trees currently present also if a problem for the biological origin theory.

    Astronomy has answers. Too bad most folk hated physics!

  • wayne

    Phill O-
    Interesting point.

    My late wife was a (working, non-academic) Geologist, and the question of “dead-dinosaurs” vs. natural processes is not as well understood as anyone would like. As well, the process by which earth itself formed isn’t as tidy as we’d like either.

    I can’t speak to any of the current theories, except to mention two major camps, that do overlap quite a bit. These molecules exist both on Earth and in Space, so there’s no reason there aren’t multiple pathways.

    Look up the theories of “Biogenic,” & “Abiogenic” origin of petroleum/hydrocarbons.

  • Phill O

    wayne Thanks for the tip. I wish academia would follow the basic principle of science and teach things as theory rather than try to say for sure.

    Einstiene’s theory of relativity at least is taught as a theory.

  • Chris

    Phill O and Wayne,

    I had heard that the Russians at one point did some deep drilling (30K feet +) for oil and did indeed strike oil. The stated “fact” here was that the depth was “well below the fossil record”. Therefore oil is NOT a fossil fuel.
    I will try to find some article on this on line.
    Is this part of the “Abiogenic” theory?

    Thanks,

    CMcL

  • wayne

    Chris–
    Not my expertise at all, but oil pre-dates “dead dinosaurs.”

    Plankton and other one-celled creatures (which are also “fossils”), generally get the credit for oil/petroleum, while Peat & Coal are thought to originate from more complex biological organisms, like plants/trees. (at least on Earth, and at the depths we find it.)

    Some of the confusion relates to “organic” vs. “inorganic” chemistry. Anything with Carbon in it is refereed to as an “organic,” but that does not imply it came from a biological organism.

    I love the whole Space thing’, but as you noted– we do very little deep exploration of our own Planet at depth. It’s like 250K miles to the Moon, but we’ve barely gone down ” a few miles” into the Earth.

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