Astronomy Picture of the Day
December 15, 2012

Titanian Nile
Titanian Nile

Credits: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/Lunar Explorer Italia/IPF

This image, taken by the NASA - Cassini Spacecraft on September 26, 2012, during its 87th close Fly-By of Titan, shows a vast River System located in the High Northern Regions of this always more intriguing and fascinating Saturnian moon. As a matter of fact, this is the first time that an image coming from Outer Space has revealed what appears to be a true River System that is so vast and structured, anywhere other than on our Home Planet Earth. The River Valley crosses Titan's North Polar Regions and runs directly into the Ligeia Mare: one of the 3 (three) Great Seas that have been so far discovered in the High Northern Latitudes of Titan. This River (still unnamed, but, in a way, very similar to the famous Terrestrial River known as Nile) stretches for more than 200 miles (such as approx. 322 Km).

Scientists have deduced that the River should be filled with actual liquid substances, because (among other things) it appears very dark along its entire extent in this High-Resolution Radar Image: a data, this one, that is indicative of the fact that we are in presence of a smooth Surface. These liquid substances are, presumably, Ethane mixed with Methane, the former having been already positively identified in the AD 2008 by Cassini's Visual and InfraRed Mapping Spectrometer at the Lake known as Ontario Lacus (this one, however, located in Titan's Southern Hemisphere).

Even though some short, local Meander (---> a bend in a sinuous watercourse), is visible, the relative straightness of the River Valley suggests that it follows the trace of at least one Fault-line, just like other large Rivers running into the Southern Margin of Ligeia Mare do. Such Faults may lead to the opening of Basins and, perhaps (and in the end), to the formation of the Giant Seas themselves. North is toward the top of the image.

This frame (which is an Original NASA - CASSINI Spacecraft Radio-Image published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the n. PIA 16197), since it is just a Radio-Image of the Titanian Surface and NOT a real view of it, has been colorized, according to an informed speculation carried out by Dr Paolo C. Fienga (LXTT-IPF), in what they could reasonably be its possible Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - CASSINI Spacecraft and, once the thick layer of Titanian Hazes and Fogs shall have been completely overcome, looked down, towards the Surface of Titan itself), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team.

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