Jan 21, 2005
These frames are taken
from a short animation made up from a sequence of images taken by
the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) instrument on board
ESA's Huygens probe, during its successful descent to Titan on Jan.
(watch video below left). Huygens emerged from the clouds at around 30 kilometers
(about 19 miles) altitude.
The DISR consists of a downward-looking High Resolution Imager (HRI),
a Medium Resolution Imager (MRI), which looks out at an angle, and a
Side Looking Imager (SLI). For this animation, most images used were
captured by the HRI and MRI.
The still frames shown here have been brightened and sharpened a
little to help pick out linear features over a wide range of
Ralph Lorenz of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of
Arizona, wrote a “pre-Cassini” paper about what he expected to find
on the surface of Titan. He wrote that Cassini,
“promises to reveal a
crater population on Titan that has been heretofore hidden by
More importantly, he explained that,
chains are unlikely on Titan, since impactors must pass close enough
to Saturn to be tidally disrupted [so] that they would suffer
aerodynamic disruption as well.... [T]he presence of a thick
atmosphere leads to atmospheric shielding, depleting the relative
abundance of small craters.”
Lorenz also thought that liquids on
Titan would form crater lakes. Of course, we now know that
does not sport the craters expected by conventional theory.
The expectations of
the Electric Universe were also made clear
before Cassini began to explore Titan. The differences from
conventional theory could not be starker. Titan was expected to be a
youthful moon bearing the electrical scars of its birth and other
encounters as it established a stable orbit. The type of scarring
was expected to be similar to that of Venus where a heavy atmosphere
causes filamentation of cosmic discharges and the formation of
surface patterns of sinuous channels. On close inspection some
channels would be found to be composed of crater chains.
The images above support the
Electric universe model. At different
altitudes, the most obvious features are filamentary. There are no
large craters. The dendritic pattern in the left hand image shows
features that distinguish it as a surface lightning channel, known
technically as a “Lichtenberg figure.” Unlike a liquid, surface
lightning doesn’t respect the topography and will flow uphill as
well as down. There is circumstantial evidence that some of the dark
channels seen in early images have their source and sink at the
“shoreline” with the darker areas. Hopefully, further analysis will
clarify this point.
A surface lightning stroke is
accompanied by a corona discharge
across the surface at right angles to the main channel. The corona
tends to cause “tributaries” of the main discharge to join the main
channel at right angles. It is unusual for rivers to do that, and if
they do it causes erosion of the opposite riverbank. There is no
evidence of channel disturbance at such junctions in the left-hand
image. The corona can also cause transverse features in the channel
floor. On Mars they look like sand dunes in serried ranks along
channel floors. There are hints of this effect in the center and
Where the surface discharge connects with the atmospheric discharge
a crater usually forms. A cosmic lightning bolt may rake across the
surface leaving a chain of craters. A low resolution image may also
give the transverse effect seen in the images above.
Surface lightning tends to force parallelism of close tributaries
due to electromagnetic forces between the two channels. We see a
possible example in the lower right corner of the left-hand image.
Lightning channels may “appear out of nowhere” on a surface or
terminate on a crater. There are no catchment area or feeder
channels as required by river systems. The tributaries are often
stubby and begin in a circular crater.
Rivers maintain a constant cross-sectional area between feeder
channels. Lightning has no such constraint and may, depending on the
electrical nature of the surface, carve a deep V-shaped channel or
skim across the surface leaving almost no trace. The renowned
Hadley’s Rille on the Moon
(click image left), visited by astronauts, shows this
characteristic. It may require a Titan orbiter, though, before this
kind of detail is available.
the electrical model is the only one to have successfully
predicted the kind of surface features we would find on Titan. In
coming days we may expect to see better quality images that can be
used to further test the model.