PerspectivePlanetary Science

The Glitter of Distant Seas

Science  17 Oct 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5644, pp. 403-404
DOI: 10.1126/science.1090464

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It has long been known that Saturn's largest moon, Titan, has a thick nitrogen atmosphere, which obscures the underlying surface. In his Perspective, Lorenz highlights the report by Campbell et al., who have used the giant Arecibo and Green Bank radio telescopes as a radar to probe Titan's hidden surface. The surface appears to be distinct from those of the icy satellites of Jupiter, in both brightness and polarization. The new data show sharp spikes in the reflected microwave spectrum, indicating large, smooth areas of radar-dark material. These features suggest the widespread existence of lakes or seas of liquid hydrocarbons on Titan.