First-Ever Photo of Liquid on Extraterrestrial World

By | December 16, 2008

First-Ever Photo of Liquid on Extraterrestrial World

The Huygens probe has captured an image of what may be the first drop of liquid ever observed on an extraterrestrial surface.

The photo is evidence that liquids may exist on the surface of other planets and moons, not just frozen lakes. And liquid is more likely habitat for extraterrestrial life.

Among the pictures snapped by the Huygens probe after landing on Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005, one appears to show a dewdrop made of methane that briefly formed on the edge of the probe itself (indicated by arrow at bottom of image on right). Scientists think heat from the probe caused humid air to rise and condense on the cold edge of the craft.

Though Huygens may have helped produce it, the methane drop is still the first liquid directly detected at a surface anywhere beyond Earth. …

The Cassini space probe, which took data from above the moon after separating from the Huygens lander, detected what scientists believe are lakes of liquid methane on Titan’s surface. Microbes that eat methane thrive on Earth, and scientists think pools of methane could be comfortable homes for similar organisms on Titan.

Because Titan’s current atmosphere is a lot like the early Earth’s, the lakes could be a lab for studying the origins and early evolution of life.

Astronomers have speculated since they found methane in the atmosphere in 1983 about whether the moon’s methane rain falls in violent thunderstorms, light drizzles or some other form. So far, no one has caught it on camera.

You have to look carefully at the bottom of the photo. The little white arrow shows where the drop of methane rain appears. Methane Rain. Good name for a band?

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