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NASA's planet-hunting space telescope has proved that it's capable of finding other Earth-like planets in our galaxy, if they're out there.
NASA reported on Thursday that its new exoplanet-hunting Kepler space telescope passed its first big test. The spacecraft, which is carrying a telescope and a series of computers, showed off its scientific capabilities by successfully detecting the atmosphere of a known giant gas planet.
The discovery proves the telescope's ability to take highly precise measurements, which will be critical to finding other Earthlike planets.
"As NASA's first exoplanets mission, Kepler has made a dramatic entrance on the planet-hunting scene," said Jon Morse, director of the Science Mission Directorate's Astrophysics Division at NASA, in a statement. "Detecting this planet's atmosphere in just the first 10 days of data is only a taste of things to come. The planet hunt is on!"
Full Computer World Article
The joint NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens mission has revealed details of Titan's geologically young surface, showing few impact craters, and featuring mountain chains, dunes and even "lakes".
The RADAR instrument on the Cassini orbiter has now allowed scientists to image a third of Titan's surface using radar beams that pierce the giant moon's thick, smoggy atmosphere. There is still much terrain to cover, as the aptly named Titan is one of the biggest moons in the Solar System, larger than the planet Mercury and approaching Mars in size.
Titan has long fascinated astronomers as the only moon known to possess a thick atmosphere, and as the only celestial body other than Earth to have stable pools of liquid on its surface. The many lakes that pepper the northern polar latitudes, with a scattering appearing in the south as well, are thought to be filled with liquid hydrocarbons, such as methane and ethane.
ScienceDaily's full article
In September 2006, Cassini imaged a large cloud at a height of 40 km over Titan's north pole. Although methane is known to condense in Titan's atmosphere, the cloud was more likely to be ethane, as the detected size of the particles was only 1–3 micrometers and ethane can also freeze at these altitudes. Wikipedia
The Voyager 1 measurements made during the Titan flyby reveal that Saturn's rotating magnetospheric plasma interacts directly with Titan's neutral atmosphere and ionosphere. This results from the lack of an intrinsic magnetic field at Titan.
The interaction induces a magnetosphere which deflects the flowing plasma around Titan and forms a plasma wake downstream. adsabs.harvard.edu...
Originally posted by Scooby Doo
...Although the two planets have substantially different surface temperatures (Titan sitting at an outstanding 180°C), the likeness of the two planets environment is somewhat impressive.
I agree Titan may be considered "Earth-like" in due to the fact that it is rocky, has a thick atmosphere, and has weather...but the average temperature being negative 180°C makes it a little less than Earth-like.
Originally posted by solarstorm
NASA= Never A Straight Answer