The Cassini probe found a rather large bright spot on Titan as it was flying past earlier this year. Unlike past finds of similar nature, which only
lasted a handful of hours, this one has lasted for quite some time, and has remained virtually stationary. It's longevity and consistant position
seem to rule out a cloud of anykind, although that is not being completely ignored.
Saturn's moon Titan shows an unusual bright spot that has scientists mystified. The spot, approximately the size and shape of West Virginia, is just
southeast of the bright region called Xanadu and is visible to multiple instruments on the Cassini spacecraft.
The 483-kilometer-wide (300-mile) region may be a "hot" spot -- an area possibly warmed by a recent asteroid impact or by a mixture of water ice and
ammonia from a warm interior, oozing out of an ice volcano onto colder surrounding terrain. Other possibilities for the unusual bright spot include
landscape features holding clouds in place or unusual materials on the surface.
"At first glance, I thought the feature looked strange, almost out of place," said Dr. Robert H. Brown, team leader of the Cassini visual and infrared
mapping spectrometer and professor at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson. "After thinking a bit, I speculated that it
was a hot spot. In retrospect, that might not be the best hypothesis. But the spot is no less intriguing."
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While this may not be exactly something that riles up the masses, I think it is a great example of how little we actually know about our solar
system. Of course, it could just be average, run-of-the-mill mountains, or a cloud formation kept in place by such mountains. Then again, this could
be anything from a volcanic vent to some strange new phenomena that we haven't classified. Or more reasonably, it could be a patch of minerals that
could be extremely valuable or useful, and yet extremely rare on earth.
Even though our nation may have many better uses for the money, I'm glad to see that the space program is not being completely ignored. There's so
much out there that could be of great use to humanity, everything from new sources of fuel to alloys our greatest metallurgists couldn't conceive. I
think that, although moving slowly, we are starting to take necessary steps in moving onward.
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