PASADENA, Calif. - Scientists with NASA's Cassini mission have spotted what appears to be a miniature, extraterrestrial likeness of Earth's Nile River: a river valley on Saturn's moon Titan that stretches more than 200 miles (400 kilometers) from its "headwaters" to a large sea. It is the first time images have revealed a river system this vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth.
Scientists deduce that the river, which is in Titan's north polar region, is filled with liquid hydrocarbons because it appears dark along its entire length in the high-resolution radar image, indicating a smooth surface.
"Though there are some short, local meanders, the relative straightness of the river valley suggests it follows the trace of at least one fault, similar to other large rivers running into the southern margin of this same Titan sea," said Jani Radebaugh, a Cassini radar team associate at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. "Such faults - fractures in Titan's bedrock -- may not imply plate tectonics, like on Earth, but still lead to the opening of basins and perhaps to the formation of the giant seas themselves."
The new image is available online at: