NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is currently conducting a series of elaborate dives in which it repeatedly comes closer to Saturn than ever before. But during its slower periods, NASA is still using the craft’s fantastic photography equipment to grab images of Saturn’s nearby bodies, such as the moon Titan. The latest photo from the agency shows Titan in all its glory, complete with some very volatile cloud cover.

The new images, which were captured by Cassini on May 7th but not released immediately, show Titan in impressive detail, with long, feathery streaks of clouds obscuring portions of the landscape. But unlike the clouds we’re used to here on Earth — which are made of extremely tiny water droplets or bits of crystalized ice — the clouds you see in the Titan photos are actually made of methane.

In addition to Titan’s wealth of atmospheric methane, the planet also has vast lakes thought to be primarily made up of liquid ethane and methane, along with nitrogen. That’s an extremely hostile combination, at least in terms of Earth-like life. However, NASA isn’t ruling out the possibility that there may actually be methane-based life on the large moon, and even has some theories as to how it might survive.

According to NASA, these new photos were snapped at a distance of about 316,000 miles, which means that each pixel of the image equals roughly 2 miles. With that scale in mind, take a look at the dark splotches dotting the top of the image. Those are the huge methane-filled seas, which may or may not be home to huge, methane-filled whales.

Source : This article was published bgr news By Mike Wehner

Categorized in Science & Tech

Astronomers have spotted a thick atmosphere – which may contain water on methane – on a rocky world a mere 40 light years from Earth.

The breakthrough on planet GJ 1132b could lead to a ‘new era’ in the search for other worlds which could sustain life, Scientific American reports.

A team at Keele University in England studied GJ 1132 b by watching the planet as it crossed the face of its star – and looking for the atmosphere absorbing light.

John Southworth of Keele University says, ‘We have shown that an Earth-mass planet is capable of sustaining a thick atmosphere.

‘This is one step towards investigating whether a planet could host life.’

The planet, named GJ 1132b, is Earth-sized, orbiting a small star located a mere 39 light-years from Earth.

The surface of the planet is hot, meaning it might be more like Venus – and it’s tidally locked, meaning that it has a permanent day and night side, much like our moon.

Speaking to Scientific American, Julien de Wit of MIT said, ‘Detecting the atmosphere of Earth-sized planets around M-dwarfs is an essential step in the search for habitable exoplanets.

‘Finding one with an atmosphere would provide us with hope.

Author : Rob Waugh

Source : https://ca.news.yahoo.com/thick-clouds-spotted-on-planet-near-to-earth-in-new-breakthrough-103717746.html

Categorized in Science & Tech

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