A hidden world revealed: Titan.

We’ve sent space probes to every planet in our solar system (and if you’re a die-hard Pluto fan, you only have to wait 4 more years). And yet there is still much to see, much to explore. Not every world gives up its secrets easily, and perhaps none has been so difficult to probe than Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Bigger than Mercury, second only to Jupiter’s Ganymede, Titan has an atmosphere of nitrogen so thick it has twice the Earth’s air pressure at its surface.
That thick, hazy atmosphere is impenetrable by optical light… but infrared light can pierce that veil, and the Cassini space probe is well-equipped with detectors that can see in that part of that spectrum. And after 7 years, and 78 fly-by passes of the huge moon, there are enough images for scientists to make this amazing global map:

Pretty awesome. And making this animation was a huge effort. First, not all of the passes were at the same distance, so scientists had to resize the images to match the scale. Cassini passed at different times of day for the local regions, so the sunlight angle changed, making illumination and shadowing different. The atmosphere of Titan is dynamic, changing with time, so again compensations must be made. It’s painstaking work, but the results are truly incredible:

In this false-color map, what’s shown as blue is actually light at a wavelength of 1.27 microns — very roughly twice the wavelength the human eye can detect. Green is 2 microns, and red is 5 microns, well out into the infrared. When the final images are combined, what show up as brown regions near the equator are actually vast dune fields, grains of frozen hydrocarbons rolling across the plains in the relentless Titanian winds. White areas are elevated terrain. Near the north pole, only barely visible, are smudges on the map that have been shown to be lakes — literally, giant lakes of liquid methane!
So Titan has air, lakes, and weather. Sound familiar? It’s not exactly Earth-like, since the temperature there is roughly -180°C (-300°F), but the similarities are compelling. And Titan is loaded with organic compounds like methane, ethane, and more. A complex chemistry is certainly possible there, but complex enough to have formed life? No one knows. Just a few years ago I don’t think anyone would’ve taken the possibility seriously, but now… well, I wouldn’t rule it out.
Remember, these maps only show global features, and even though Cassini dropped the Huygens probe onto the surface, it saw a tiny fraction of what there is to see on this moon, which boasts over 80 million square kilometers of territory. That’s a lot of land. What else is there to find there?

Olympus Mons: the solar system biggest known mountain.


The largest of the volcanoes in the Tharsis Montes region, as well as all known volcanoes in the solar system, is Olympus Mons. Olympus Mons is a shield volcano 624 km (374 mi) in diameter (approximately the same size as the state of Arizona), 25 km (16 mi) high, and is rimmed by a 6 km (4 mi) high scarp. A caldera 80 km (50 mi) wide is located at the summit of Olympus Mons. To compare, the largest volcano on Earth is Mauna Loa. Mauna Loa is a shield volcano 10 km (6.3 mi) high and 120 km (75 mi) across. The volume of Olympus Mons is about 100 times larger than that of Mauna Loa. In fact, the entire chain of Hawaiian islands (from Kauai to Hawaii) would fit inside Olympus Mons!
These images, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft, show the eastern scarp of the Olympus Mons volcano on Mars.

The HRSC obtained these images during orbit 1089 with a ground resolution of approximately 11 metres per pixel. The image is centred at 17.5° North and 230.5° East. The scarp is up to six kilometres high in places.
The surface of the summit plateau’s eastern flank shows lava flows that have are several kilometres long and a few hundred metres wide.

Age determinations show that they are up to 200 million years old, in some places even older, indicating episodic geological activity.
The lowland plains, seen here in the eastern part of the image (bottom), typically have a smooth surface.
Several channel-like features are visible which form a broad network composed of intersecting and ‘anastomosing’* channels that are several kilometres long and up to 40 metres deep. (*Anastomising means branching extensively and crossing over one another, like veins on the back of your hand.)
Several incisions suggest a tectonic control, others show streamlined islands and terraced walls suggesting outflow activity.
Age determinations show that the network-bearing area was geologically active as recent as 30 million years ago.
Between the edge of the lowland plains and the bottom of the volcano slope, there are ‘wrinkle ridges’ which are interpreted as the result of compressional deformation. In some places, wrinkle ridges border the arch-like terraces at the foot of the volcano slope.
The colour scenes have been derived from the three HRSC-colour channels and the nadir channel.
The perspective views have been calculated from the digital terrain model derived from the stereo channels.
The 3D anaglyph image was calculated from the nadir and one stereo channel. Image resolution has been decreased for use on the internet.
Links to look :
OlympusMons.com – Your Guide to Olympus Mons – the largest volcano in our solar system.

Mars Exploration: Multimedia

List of highest mountains on Mars by height

Name Elevation (m)
Olympus Mons 21,171
Ascraeus Mons 18,209
Arsia Mons 17,779
Pavonis Mons 14,037
Elysium Mons 13,862
Maxwell Mons, Venus
(tallest mountain on Venus) 11,000
Tharsis Tholus 8,000-9,000
Biblis Tholus
(formerly Patera) 7,198
Alba Mons 6,815
Ulysses Tholus 5,863
Uranius Mons 4,853
Anseris Mons 3,959
Hadriacus Mons
(formerly Hadriaca Patera) 3,959
Euripus Mons 3,945
Tyrrhenus Mons
(formerly Tyrrhena Patera) 3,920
Promethei Mons 3,789
Chronius Mons 3,240
Apollinaris Mons
(formerly Patera) 3,155
Gonnus Mons 2,937
Syrtis Major Planum 2,300
Amphitrites Patera 2,066
Nili Patera 2,036
Pityusa Patera 1,877
Malea Patera 1,313
Peneus Patera 1,276
Labeatis Mons 1,143
Issedon Paterae 826
Pindus Mons 704
Meroe Patera 542
Dead Sea, Earth
(depth below sea level) -420
Orcus Patera -764
Oceanidum Mons -1,277
Horarum Mons -2,325
Peraea Mons -2,470
Bentley Subglacial Trench,
Earth (depth below sea level) -2,555
Octantis Mons -2,731
Galaxius Mons -3,972
Challenger Deep, Earth
(depth below sea level) -10,924

Columbus blamed for Little Ice Age

Christopher Columbus gets blamed for lots of things from being a poor manager to being one of the causes of the mass genocide in the new world. However, one thing he is not associated with is global climate change. Until now anyway…
An article by Devin Powell titled Columbus blamed for Little Ice Age has some details. It notes, “By sailing to the New World, Christopher Columbus and the other explorers who followed may have set off a chain of events that cooled Europe’s climate for centuries. The European conquest of the Americas decimated the people living there, leaving large areas of cleared land untended. Trees that filled in this territory pulled billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, diminishing the heat-trapping capacity of the atmosphere and cooling climate, says Richard Nevle, a geochemist at Stanford University.”

Dr. Nevle is quoted, ““We have a massive reforestation event that’s sequestering carbon … coincident with the European arrival.”

I am not going to doubt the sincerity of this research. The world was changed by the European discovery of the new world. Lots of things happened. But Columbus sailing his boats across the Atlantic caused the Little Ice Age in Europe? I think it goes to show how we just don’t understand everything about the global weather and how it acts over the long term yet.