There's Tar In Them Thar Hills

Is the 21st century's equivalent of the '49s Gold Rush in our future, say in 2049? Think Tom Corbet and Gabby Hays, tanker rockets and space-suited roughnecks.

The Cassini spacecraft and scientists from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., reported in the Jan. 29 issue of the Geophysical Research Letters that Saturn's orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes.

At a not so balmy minus 179 degrees Celsius (minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit), Titan is a far cry from Earth. Instead of water, liquid hydrocarbons in the form of methane and ethane fill lakes and seas on Saturn's moon.

Several hundred bodies of water methane have been observed, and dark dunes that run along the equator contain a volume of organics several hundred times greater than Earth's coal reserves.

And don't forget we're a carbon-based life form, so it's not out of the question to think that a life form based on liquid methane instead of liquid water might have evolved.

Could make a great space opera, daring astronauts fighting vicious methane-monsters to bring back life-giving hydrocarbons. Assuming we can figure out how to prevent their by-products from making global warming worse, of course.


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