Titan beautiful in infrared


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Beautiful indeed, though I’m a bit surprised NASA doesn’t have better photo-stitching software.


Absolutely stunning. Please god let me live long enough to see high resolution photos of the planets and moons of the solar system. It’s photos like these, I think, that win hearts and minds, which we desperately need to maintain and increase the collective value we place on space exploration and theoretical physics. The advances in our understanding of the cosmos achieved over the last two decades have been a pleasure to witness.

A question for the engineers: What would the ramifications be of extracting methane from a body like Titan for fuel on earth? It seems like even if it were viable, from an engineering and economical perspective, that it would still be a non-starter from the greenhouse gasses produced by burning it? Just finished a grueling 13 hour cab shift, and my brain feels like a Cheerio after an overnight swim in a bowl of rice milk, so sorry if that is an absurd question for reasons unclear to me at the moment, but which will become embarrassingly obvious the second I click ‘Reply’.


Conspiracy nuts make a lot of noise whenever NASA alters photos. They have the technology to balance the light levels across the entire photo, but then they have congressmen calling them up asking why they are “manipulating the truth”.


If you’re talking about extracting the methane for use in the area, that seems a lot more likely since the cost of setup and transport back to Earth would greatly overwhelm any price you could reasonably ask for it once on Earth. Besides, I doubt methane would be a useful fuel for starships–maybe a useful fuel for a base on Titan, although the thought of an engine that could burn methane…on a moon with methane clouds…not such a good idea, probably.

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There’s a great detail in Arthur C Clarke’s Imperial Earth where outdoor lighting is providing by piping oxygen to lamps and lighting it in the ambient methane atmosphere, rather than pumping natural gas and lighting it in an oxygen atmosphere.


The upper lower explosive limit for methane is 5% (above that it is flammable in air). The upper explosive limit is 15%, above that it is NOT flammable (too rich a mixture) in air. (.pdf here) So the problem would be too much methane not enough oxygen or other oxidizer. Titan’s atmosphere is mostly nitrogen with 1.4% methane and some hydrogen. There crust is only 50% silicates and rest is water ice and ammonia hydrates so there is oxygen available.

The amounts and energies needed to set Titan on fire are left as an exercise for the reader.


So what you’re telling me is the carburation is way, way off :wink:

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AFAIK the concentration of O2 in Titan’s atmosphere is trivial, so it would be impossible to light. There’s nothing to oxidize the methane. If it were possible to light the atmosphere on fire with just rocket plume it would have happened eons ago with the first meteorite that streaked into the moon.

So to make your rocket refueling stop work, you could harvest Methane from Titan and Oxygen cracked from a captured comet using the energy from either the Sun (HUUUUUGE solar panels) or from Jupiter (highly radioactive, but how you harness that is left as an exercise to the reader).

Sunlight glitters on the ethane seas of Titan.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…


I wonder if Titan could have fossil deposits of oxidisers under the surface, much as we have fossil fuels. If they could be mined, they could be used as a source of energy.

The oxygen is in the water ice, just melt and use electrolysis. Use some energy you brought with you to get started, then once it’s burning harvest some to continue melting ice, some in a turbine to drive a generator for electricity all the while screaming because everything around you is on fire!!!

Let me know when there are incredible super slo-mo surfing Titan videos…

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