Thursday, June 12, 2008

Volcanic Methane

Kilauea Hawaii, molten olivine causing methane flares. Hawaii is known for it's active volcanism, pillow lava, and olivine pools.

Of course, Hawaii is not the only place that has volcanic methane: Scientists Discover Possible Titan Volcano.

A recent flyby of Saturn's hazy moon Titan by the Cassini spacecraft has revealed evidence of a possible volcano, which could be a source of methane in Titan's atmosphere.

Images taken in infrared light show a circular feature roughly 30 kilometers (19 miles) in diameter that does not resemble any features seen on Saturn's other icy moons. Scientists interpret the feature as an "ice volcano," a dome formed by upwelling icy plumes that release methane into Titan's atmosphere. The findings appear in the June 9 issue of Nature.

"Before Cassini-Huygens, the most widely accepted explanation for the presence of methane in Titan's atmosphere was the presence of a methane-rich hydrocarbon ocean," said Dr. Christophe Sotin, distinguished visiting scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"The suite of instruments onboard Cassini and the observations at the Huygens landing site reveal that a global ocean is not present," said Sotin, a team member of the Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer instrument and professor at the Université de Nantes, France.

"Interpreting this feature as a cryovolcano provides an alternative explanation for the presence of methane in Titan's atmosphere. Such an interpretation is supported by models of Titan's evolution," Sotin said.
Titan's volcano may release methane.

A team of European and US scientists, using Cassini-Huygens data, have found that Saturn’s smoggy moon Titan may have volcanoes that release methane into the atmosphere.

These findings may lead scientists to revise the theories that methane in Titan’s atmosphere is mainly due to the presence of a methane-rich hydrocarbon ocean.

Infrared images taken by the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) on board the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini orbiter, show a bright, 30-kilometre-wide structure. This structure, imaged during the first Titan fly-by on 26 October 2004 from a distance of 1200 kilometres, could be interpreted as a volcanic dome formed by upwelling plumes of icy material that rose to the planet's surface. While melting, the icy material contaminated by hydrocarbons would release methane gas.
Titan’s surface organics surpass oil reserves on Earth.

Saturn’s orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new Cassini data. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes.

The new findings from the study led by Ralph Lorenz, Cassini radar team member from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, USA, are reported in the 29 January 2008 issue of the Geophysical Research Letters.
Here is absolutely amazing video of the Huygens Probe landing on Titan featuring "methane rain" and "a type of hydrocarbon mixture that has never been produced in the laboratory."

Scientists have known hydrocarbons have a volcanic origin since the time of Von Humboldt (1804).

BBC On Titan's Cryo-Volcanoes.


Anaconda said...


Another "Peak" myth bites the dust, although, it's true this is not a large amount of flammable gas, but documentation from all over the world is clear about the association between hydrocarbons and solfataric volcansim.

Should one meet a "Peak" oil pusher, ask them about the association between hydrocarbons and volcanism. Better yet, ask them about solfatarism; this writer bets they won't even know the word or the type of volcanism it refers to.

Tell them it refers to sulphur vents and their eyes will get bright with recognition -- but watch their eyes grow dim again as you explain the vast amount of documented hydrocarbons released from these solfataric vents.

Then after politely explaining solfatarism and the emission of hydrocarbons, watch them go silent.

Sometimes, silence is 'golden'.

Anaconda said...


Amazing! Titan holds more fascination than Mars, it seems.

Certainly, Titan has a more active planet surface -- frankly, Mars has always been a bit disappointing in that respect, although, this writer has always appreciated the effort and technology to "get" to Mars.

And, anytime there are pictures from another world, that commands attention and wonder.

And, why "go" to Mars and Titan and all the other planets: The never ending quest for discovery, and perhaps, insight into our own blue and white marvel.

That insight into our own planet is turning out to be greater than suspected.

It seems man always returns to navigating by the stars, the planets, and the moons to understand our world better.

Will we fully comprehend our world?

And, will we be someday 'star riders'?

OilIsMastery said...

Transocean should change it's name to Transpace and set up rigs on Titan...=)

Quantum_Flux said...

Yeesh! Methane is highly corrosive to metals, I'll bet the metal on that probe was rapidly oxidized like the anode in a battery acid termial.