This is the first ever image of a 250 mile river in an Alien world. Captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows a vast river system on Saturn‘s largest moon Titan. Left: A river in Titan. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI Right: Nile river. Image credit: NASA
It is the first time images from space have revealed a river system so vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth. The image was acquired on Sept. 26, 2012, on Cassini’s 87th close flyby of Titan. The river valley crosses Titan’s north polar region and runs into Ligeia Mare, one of the three great seas in the high northern latitudes of Saturn’s moon Titan. It stretches more than 200 miles (360 kilometers).
North is toward the top of this image.
Scientists deduce that the river is filled with liquid because it appears dark along its entire extent in the high-resolution radar image, indicating a smooth surface. That liquid is presumably ethane mixed with methane, the former having been positively identified in 2008 by Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer at the lake known as Ontario Lacus in Titan’s southern hemisphere. Though there are some short, local meanders, the relative straightness of the river valley suggests it follows the trace of at least one fault, similar to other large rivers running into the southern margin of Ligeia Mare. Such faults may lead to the opening of basins and perhaps to the formation of the giant seas themselves.