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  Cassini-Huygens at Saturn: Questions, comments (Page 3)

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Author Topic:   Cassini-Huygens at Saturn: Questions, comments
dss65
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posted 01-14-2005 09:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dss65   Click Here to Email dss65     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Add to NASA's home runs of late, ESA's GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!!!!

fabfivefreddy
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posted 01-14-2005 10:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Gorgeous photos! A great day in space history.

spaceuk
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posted 01-15-2005 06:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Latest information from this Saturday (15/1/05) morning ESOC Darmstadt news conference by Huygens PI members - just a few minutes ago:
  • 18 earth ground radio telescopes should be able determine Huygen's landing position to within 1 km.

  • The deceleration of impact of Huygens onto Titan surface was measured at 15g for a few milliseconds only.

  • The penetrometer suggests that surface material is a thin crust with a uniform consistency. The penetrator went in 15 cm.
    Closest analog they have given - so far - is wet sand or clay material as far as mechanical properties.

  • The sonar data suggested a 4.5 m/sec impact speed - lower than expected.

  • The aerosol collector noted polymers,hydrocarbons and nitriles but little hard data presented at news conference.

  • The minimum temperature (at cloud layer) was seen as 70.5 degrees kelvin and on ground at 93.8 degrees kelvin (i.e very cold!)

  • The microphone sounds were replayed. My interpretation was is that it was like standing on a pavement in a town centre with the traffic constantly 'humming' by.

  • The radar sounder acoustics were played back. My interpretation is that it starts off like a drum beat then picks up rapidly and is like a motorbike buzzing off into the distance, which then turns around and returns back to you! The sounds will be on Planetary Society web site later.

  • The GCMS got very good data on channel B
    At the 90 minute mark in descent there is a distinct kink in the data on chart and was attributed to an increase in the methane/nitrogen ratio suggesting a thick haze layer at about 18-20 km altitude level. Pressure was seen at 500 millibars.

  • On the surface they saw again a methane/nitrogen ratio increase. It was suggested the surface layer was evaporating and that there was maybe a methane reservoir just underneath?

  • A couple more images were shown including an altitude panorama and a surface colour image.

    The surface colour is very much Mars like being orange in colour on both rocks,surface layers and haze layers. Some white patches on the rocks - which are about 15-20 centimetres across. The camera is about 40 cm above Titan ground.

    The dendritic patterns seen on surface from altitude being expressed as drainage channels.

    The altitude panorama showed what was described as a thin ground fog or haze of ethane or methane.

    The wind speed was seen as 7 metre/second at the 10-20km altitude.

  • The DSIR instrument reflectance readings suggests that the surface is closer to water ice than methane or ethane ice.
This is 'raw data' and will - over time - no doubt be adjusted, amended and maybe even changed as the readings are more finely honed!

spaceuk
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posted 01-15-2005 06:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One of the new images - from altitude - more distinctly shows the 'hills' and some denfritic channels 'snaking' down to the basin of dark, flatter material at its edges.

There are several 'impact' craters in the dark material which suggest it is a 'firm' layer - maybe like dried mud flats - perhaps of hydrocarbons.

Be interesting see what later images produce.

spaceuk
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posted 01-15-2005 07:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looking at the sideways image of Titan showing the dark layered area reminds of the oil shales at Kimmeridge cliffs that you can see just west of Poole in Dorset in England.

In 2000 these oils shales actually caught 'fire' and gave off pungent black and grey smoke for months - as well as visible flames.

There used to be some 'crude oil' outcrops at Castleton in Derbyshire - not sure if still accessible - haven't been for years!

I have a small piece of this - which I'll try and find. It is very dull black,very rubbery to handle (squashy). The open oozing pond of this at Castelton was like a black muddy lake. To step into it would have been almost fatal since it would have sucked you in like quick sand - very very gooey.

The 'rubbery oil' had the same kind of consistency as the rubberised solid propellant used in SpaceShipOne.

This black 'lake' on Titan looks a little like that Castleton pond but maybe just a wee bit more hardened off - perhaps like the oil shales at Kimmeridge?

spaceuk
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posted 01-15-2005 07:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A better term for this would natural bitumen and this can be seen in the UK at the world heritage site of IronBridge, Shropshire at the so called Tar Tunnel.

heng44
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posted 01-15-2005 08:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for heng44   Click Here to Email heng44     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ths reminds me of a wonderful observation by Carl Sagan about how people in the 1970s and 1980s were living at a unique time in human history, when just about all the planets were viewed closeup for the first time ever: "All earlier generations have wondered and never found out; all later generations will have found out, but never wondered".

Blackarrow
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posted 01-15-2005 10:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Phill, what was the atmospheric pressure on the ground? I assume about 1,500 millibars?

Scott
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posted 01-15-2005 04:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
ESA: Sounds of Titan!

Audio data collected by the Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument (HASI), which includes an acoustic sensor, during Huygens' descent, 14 January 2005.

Carrie
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posted 01-15-2005 06:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Carrie   Click Here to Email Carrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A few questions... the radar version plays for about three minutes, but the sound seems to stop after a minute or so. Does the sound stop because that's when Huygens landed? In that case, why not trim off the last two minutes when there's no sound?

Scott
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posted 01-15-2005 08:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The file I downloaded is only 1 minute 3 seconds long and ends with the rapid escalation in pitch you refer to. Maybe your player somehow added the 2 minutes... I don't know.

That is my understanding also - that the end of the sound is when it landed.

Gordon Reade
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posted 01-15-2005 08:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gordon Reade     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How long did Huygens "live" after touching down on Titan? It's not still alive is it?

Blackarrow
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posted 01-15-2005 10:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gordon Reade:
How long did Huygens "live" after touching down on Titan?
Professor John Zarnecki, in charge of the Huygens Surface Science Package, has reported that Huygens sent back 3 hrs 37 min 26 sec of data. 70 minutes data were transmitted from the surface. However, the key limiting factor was a direct line of sight between Huygens and Cassini. Once Cassini's orbit around Saturn took it below Titan's horizon, the signal from Huygens was cut off. BUT - I believe Huygens continued to transmit signals for at least another hour. These were picked up on Earth, but obviously were too faint to process. Huygens was battery-powered: I assume the battery has now been exhausted. Huygens is now dead, but although its active live was short it was certainly very productive. Well done to all involved in this wonderfully successful project.

Carrie
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posted 01-16-2005 06:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Carrie   Click Here to Email Carrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Scott:
Maybe your player somehow added the 2 minutes...
Thanks! I can believe my player would do an odd thing like that! -C

Novaspace
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posted 01-16-2005 06:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Novaspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While we wait for ESA to release images, here's a mosaic put together "quick and dirty" by artist and IAAA.org member Don Davis.

Here's some more from other "impatient novices".

I hope someday soon ESA comes out of its self-congratulatory fog, and learn how to use the media (which have now all gone home).

Scott
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posted 01-16-2005 06:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That first link especially gives a better view than what I'd seen on the media page so far. I had been wondering why more media images had not been released in the last day.

Novaspace
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posted 01-17-2005 04:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Novaspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some IAAA artists are surmising that the bottom images of the Davis mosaic look an awful like coastline city lights, while the straight riverbed in upper left looks like a landing strip or shipping channel. Reminds me of the Ranch Palos Verdes peninsula in L.A.

P.S. Check out the painting I did for TIME-LIFE 20 years ago before the probe had a name or design. On the page above.

BigWaveDave
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posted 01-17-2005 09:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for BigWaveDave   Click Here to Email BigWaveDave     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Don't know if anyone saw the "Cassini" program on the Science (Discovery) Channel yesterday, but at the end of the program they showed some of the artist conceptions of Titan/Huygens.

I recognized the work of one of them to be that of Frank Hettick. Apparently he was first place award winner in The Planetary Society contest for the artist's interpretation of Titan/Huygen's landing. Way to go Frank! I have purchased many of Frank's art pieces from Astro-Auction, along with a lot of Kim's work ...thanks guys.

One of the other artist's had a painting of alien looking penguins (with antenna) hauling Huygens off through the snow like a dog sled. I suppose off to the Igloo Laboratory.

Gordon Reade
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posted 01-18-2005 11:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gordon Reade     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was just reading a book called Imperial Earth written by Arthur Clarke. It takes place on Saturn's moon Titan. It opens with a ten year old boy who lives in a colony below the surface chancing upon an open phone line to the moon's surface. The sound he hears is wind. Unlike all the other moons in our solar system Titan has an atmosphere and wind. Not only that Clarke goes on to describe the color of the world (red) and the composition of it's atmosphere (methane).

The remarkable thing is the book was published in 1976, years before spacecraft visited Saturn. I guess Clarke just got lucky. Either that or he owns a magic telescope.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-18-2005 11:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Clarke was not so much lucky as he was well read (I assume). From SpaceDaily:

Titan: A Primordial Earth In Our Solar System
September 22, 2000

About the time Percival Lowell was proposing canals on Mars, the Catalan astronomer José Comas Solé, inferred the presence of an atmosphere on Titan. Solé reported that he observed that Titan was darker at its limb than it was at its center.

He suggested that the mechanism for this was sunlight reflected toward the Earth by Titan's limb must pass through more of Titan's atmosphere than sunlight reflected by the center.

Solés observations led Sir James Jeans to include Titan and giant moons of Jupiter in his theoretical study of the escape of atmospheres from the bodies of the solar system. Jeans hypothesized that even though the gravity on Titan was weak compared to the Earth. Titan nevertheless probably retained an atmosphere due to its low temperature.

This lead to the prediction that the temperature of Titan must be between 60 and 100 Kelvin (273 K = 0oC), which would imply that a gaseous substance whose molecular weight is 16 or more should not have escaped from Titan over the history of the solar system. (Molecular hydrogen (H2) has a molecular weight of two; molecular oxygen (O2) has a molecular weight of 32]. Several substances satisfy Jean's limit on weight. These include argon, neon, molecular nitrogen (N2) and methane (CH4).

In 1944 the legendary planetary scientist Gerald P. Kuiper, of the University of Chicago, identified methane in the spectrum of Titan -- the first strong evidence that Titan had an atmosphere. Subsequent observations by radar, telescopes and laboratory modeling painted varied pictures of Titan.

For example, based upon previous work, John J. Caldwell of Princeton University, suggested that the atmosphere of Titan was 90% methane with a surface pressure of 20 millibars (1000 millibars is roughly the atmospheric pressure at sea level on the Earth) and a surface temperature of 86 K.

Alternatively, based upon radio measurements, Donald M. Hunten of the University of Arizona proposed that Titan could have an atmosphere of molecular hydrogen at 20 bars and a surface temperature of 200 K.

A middle ground was reached when Walter J. Jaffe and Tobias Owen observed Titan with the Very Large Array of radio telescopes situated in New Mexico. They found that Titan had a surface temperature of 87 K and that it could have a significant atmosphere with the caveat that nitrogen provided no more than two bars.

Gilbert
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posted 01-18-2005 12:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gilbert   Click Here to Email Gilbert     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Gordon, I read Imperial Earth over 25 years ago, but barely remember it. After reading your post I think I'll re-read the book. You can't go wrong reading Clarke anyway.

spaceuk
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posted 01-19-2005 09:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Novaspace:
I hope someday soon ESA comes out of its self-congratulatory fog, and learn how to use the media (which have now all gone home).
Agree with Kim (and others) that ESA should have better better at PR than they were over Huygen's.

Yes, I understand that the PI's have been waiting DECADES for their experiments to succeed and want to 'analyse' what they have - who wouldn't !

But, a more general over the shoulder look would have been great.

There was a small amount with BBC 2 Stardate but not a great deal. (I don't know if any other Euro channels did anything similar like BBC Stardate?)

Also, where was the Descent Press Kit? There were bits and bobs around the ESA site but not in one PDF/Word document - at least I didn't find it!

There were some animations but none that could easily be referred too?

This was THE flagship planetary mission. It was a very risky mission to descend into the 'unknown' atmosphere of Titan. But the rewards would be rich - if they carried it off - which they did admirably. The technology and the science. ESA and its teams should be on the roof top shouting it aloud to the world. Instead it was almost a whimper.

It should have been a priority in ESA PR.

Several links to websites that should be carrying Huygens experiment details didn't work either, e.g. Italian site.

It is now nearly one week on.

Where are the 'additional' images that have been processed since Friday night? Or updates on some experimental data? I understand there is another press meeting this Friday coming?

The web site carrying images is nearly always 'frozen' due to, no doubt, thousands of extra hits. Where were the mirror sites for this? They should have known that they would get increased traffic for about 1 week? Even the NASA Cassini site didn't carry images - just referred to the ESA portal

Pre-descent the ESA Bulletin magazine carried a article about the mission. But again, ESA PR missed an opportunity.

They should have sent out car bumper stickers, Huygens logo stickers, pin badges, A4 (or larger) posters, leaflets at the same time in same envelope to the several hundred (thousands?) on this distribution list. But they didn't.

Also, now some images are becoming slowly available, you have this pop-up acceptance screen. Why on every image? Do it once at the start of that image web page?

And so on and so on... rant rant!

spaceuk
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posted 01-19-2005 09:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
Phill, what was the atmospheric pressure on the ground?
I didn't catch or note any ground pressure readings from them.

Not sure if they have released that info yet?

It was 500 millibars higher up at altitude from some data they gave. Maybe update this coming Friday 21/1/05)?

Philip
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posted 01-19-2005 01:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Lots of attention to the Huygens landing on Titan in Belgian newspapers but also some criticism that 50% of the photos were not received as Huygens was sending those on two canals onboard Cassini and one of these was not active. Anyway congratulations to NASA and ESA and all contributors!

Novaspace
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posted 01-19-2005 03:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Novaspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yeah, ESA's blown it, PR-wise, but on a positive note, hopefully they've now been bitten by the exploration bug, again after 500 years, and will become NASA's new partner in planetary exploration.

spaceuk
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posted 01-19-2005 05:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This appears to be ALL the raw images online from Huygens descent. 37 pages of several images per page.

Enjoy.

I take back just a little of what I said about ESA PR earlier but it certainly was not 'shouted from roof tops' again.

These images are actually from the University of Arizona's PI home site.

Novaspace
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posted 01-19-2005 05:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Novaspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
These images were accessible from one of the UofA's imaging team's websites the first day, until ESA made her remove them, because they hadn't been officially released by ESA.

It is what Don Davis and others used for their amateur mosaics.

The top image in the "triplet" is the side-looking camera,the second, looking 45 degrees downward, the bottom, downward.

Blackarrow
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posted 01-19-2005 05:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have been completely blown away by the new "unofficial" panoramas from the Huygens descent. In particular, that view of what seems for all the world to be a coastline seen out of an aircraft window. It's so easy to see an ocean, with waves breaking on the shore, clouds scudding across the sky, and rivers carving channels down to the beaches... Percival Lowell would have a field day! Is that really a dark body of liquid, or just a sludgy mass of hydrocarbon mud?

Kim, you're absolutely right about ESA losing the PR battle. They should have done more to publicize such a wonderful success.

Phill, same comment. "Stardate" was fine, but not enough actual Titan images.

Final question: is that familiar image of "snowballs" on the surface of Titan the only view of the surface? Did they not do a larger panorama?

spaceuk
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posted 01-19-2005 05:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Novaspace:
These images were accessible from one of the UofA's imaging team's websites the first day, until ESA made her remove them, because they hadn't been officially released by ESA.
Yes that's right but it looks like this time they are 'out and about' at last for good!

spaceuk
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posted 01-19-2005 05:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
Phill, what was the atmospheric pressure on the ground?
From the ACP press release the pressure measured by the HASI instrument at about 20 km was 497.8 millibar.

Maybe the HASI team will release more data this Friday?

Novaspace
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posted 01-19-2005 06:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Novaspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
Is that familiar image of "snowballs" on the surface of Titan the only view of the surface?
Yes, since the lander stopped spinning when it landed, the side-looking camera only got one view. The other two are buried in the "creme brulet" surface.

The riverlets probably carry ethane rain runoff to the ocean. I don't see how anyone can dispute an ocean-shore view, but let's remember how unbelievably COLD it is there.

I think Titan begs for balloon, rover and orbiter long term reconnaissance. Even on a direct trajectory, it would take four years to get there. I'll bet the finest minds on Earth are hard at work on this one!

Aztecdoug
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posted 01-19-2005 06:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aztecdoug   Click Here to Email Aztecdoug     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can't express very well in words how I was moved by these images. We have seen spectacular images from the Moon, Mars and even some from Venus... but those have never been something that looked so terrestrial.

Imagine going what, 800 Million miles, and taking snapshots of something that looks like the California coastline...

Think of all the other undiscovered worlds out there which we will one day find and that will remind us of our own home.

spaceuk
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posted 01-21-2005 06:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is just one of many sites carrying the new data released at today's (Friday 21/1/05) news conference at ESOC Darmstadt

Matt T
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posted 01-21-2005 06:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Matt T   Click Here to Email Matt T     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
'Organic - Of, relating to, or derived from living organisms' So are they saying there is life on Titan?

spaceuk
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posted 01-21-2005 07:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is ESA's report of Friday's conference.

spaceuk
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posted 01-21-2005 07:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Matt T:
So are they saying there is life on Titan?
I should think they are referring to 'organic' in the context of "..containing carbon compounds..." at this point.

Carbon is found in all earth living organisms BUT it is also found in inorganic compounds.

Methane (CH4) and ethane (C2H6) discovered at Titan are carbon compounds.

Methane natural gas on earth is normally associated with the anaerobic decomposition of plant and animal matter under water (common name - marsh gas) and usually occurs with oil deposits deep underground.

On earth, bitumonous coal is used in commercial production of methane - coal having been formed by decomposition of dead (once living!) matter over many thousands and millions of years (usually going back to Carboniferous era).

So, over the last few centuries, methane has been 'associated' with 'decaying matter' because that is where we humans have mainly found it naturally here on earth.

The results from Titan from Huygens and Cassini (and for that matter results from Mars orbiters and rovers which are detecting methane at that planet) may lead to other methods of the production of carbon compounds (like ethane and methane) being proposed other than by 'decaying once living carbon compounds'?

spaceuk
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posted 01-21-2005 07:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One 'good' (?) thing about Titan - with all that methane, ethane and 'organic compounds' - is that there is a ready source of raw materials for the manufacture of many forms of plastics, fuels (petrols after refining), oils, waxes, etc.

Perhaps - one day - the Titania Chemical Corp may be just as well known as the other household names like Shell, Esso, Dow, ICI - providing raw materials for chemicals and plastics from Titan?

gliderpilotuk
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posted 01-22-2005 07:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Are there likely to be any shots of Saturn from the surface of Titan, or during descent? That would be something else.

Novaspace
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posted 01-23-2005 12:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Novaspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by gliderpilotuk:
Are there likely to be any shots of Saturn from the surface of Titan, or during descent? That would be something else.
No. Not only did Huygens land on the side of Titan facing away from Saturn, but the atmosphere is way too dense and unbroken for a view of the planet.

Blackarrow
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posted 02-23-2005 06:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does anyone know if Cassini has enough fuel left to reduce speed while passing Titan and go into orbit around Titan? I'm talking about near the end of the mission when all the planned satellite encounters have been done. Of course, the question is rather hypothetical, since the current fuel load will be depleted over the next few years carrying out orbital manoeuvres to line up for the various encounters. But, hypothetically, does Cassini have enough dV capability to go into orbit around Titan? (It would certainly aid the radar mapping!)


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