In 2004, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft — a probe that flies by Titan as it orbits Saturn — penetrated Titan’s orange haze, providing scientists with their first detailed images of the surface. Radar images revealed an icy terrain carved out over millions of years by rivers of liquid methane, similar to how rivers of water have etched into Earth’s rocky continents. The image above from the Cassini mission show river networks draining into lakes in Titan’s north polar region.While images of Titan have revealed its present landscape, very little is known about its geologic past. Now researchers at MIT and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville have analyzed images of Titan’s river networks and determined that in some regions, rivers have created surprisingly little erosion. The researchers say there are two possible explanations: either erosion on Titan is extremely slow, or some other recent phenomena may have wiped out older riverbeds and landforms.“It’s a surface that should have eroded much more than what we’re seeing, if the river networks have been active for a long time,” says Taylor Perron, the Cecil and Ida Green Assistant Professor of Geology at MIT. “It raises some very interesting questions about what has been happening on Titan in the last billion years.”“It’s a weirdly Earth-like place, even with this exotic combination of materials and temperatures,” Perron says. “And so you can still say something definitive about the erosion. It’s the same physics.”
From the NYT:
Like Moses seeing the Promised Land but not being able to go there, Fermilab physicists said Monday that its Tevatron, now shuttered but once the world’s most powerful physics machine, had fallen just short of finding a long-hypothesized particle.
Known as the Higgs boson, it explains why things in the universe have mass, and is a cornerstone of modern physics despite never being seen.
The news from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory added more buzz and hype about the long-sought particle as physicists and many others are standing by for an announcement on Wednesday from CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, home of the Large Hadron Collider, which supplanted the Tevatron as the big horse in physics, and whose physicists might be on the verge of announcing that they have actually found the Higgs boson.
Listen to radio waves from Saturn (but be warned … it is very scary, I’m not kidding. And do NOT play this while your children are within hearing range, as it will set off panic and cause permanent psychological scarring.)
Lord Martin Rees, a leading cosmologist and astrophysicist who is the president of Britain’s Royal Society and astronomer to the Queen of England, has said that he believes the existence of extra terrestrial life may be beyond human understanding.
“They could be staring us in the face and we just don’t recognize them. The problem is that we’re looking for something very much like us, assuming that they at least have something like the same mathematics and technology.”
“I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive. Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there as aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.”
Scientists now estimate that there are tens of thousands more rogue planets roaming around the galaxy than stars, some of which may carry bacterial life and seed the Milky Way with life.
“To paraphrase Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, if correct, this extrapolation implies that we are not in Kansas anymore, and in fact we never were in Kansas,” said Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution for Science, author of The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets, who was not involved in the research. “The universe is riddled with unseen planetary-mass objects that we are just now able to detect.”