The identification of liquid ethane in Titan's Ontario Lacus.

Department of Planetary Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA.
Nature (Impact Factor: 38.6). 08/2008; 454(7204):607-10. DOI: 10.1038/nature07100
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Titan was once thought to have global oceans of light hydrocarbons on its surface, but after 40 close flybys of Titan by the Cassini spacecraft, it has become clear that no such oceans exist. There are, however, features similar to terrestrial lakes and seas, and widespread evidence for fluvial erosion, presumably driven by precipitation of liquid methane from Titan's dense, nitrogen-dominated atmosphere. Here we report infrared spectroscopic data, obtained by the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) on board the Cassini spacecraft, that strongly indicate that ethane, probably in liquid solution with methane, nitrogen and other low-molecular-mass hydrocarbons, is contained within Titan's Ontario Lacus.

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