Need a Vacation? Visit Titan's Exotic Ontario Lacus

Tired of terrestrial vacations? We have the destination for you! A beautiful lake-side retreat on Saturn's moon, Titan. (We accept no liability for sickness and death associated with excessive methane inhalation.)

It's summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means vacation time! Might I suggest lovely Ontario Lacus? Located in the Southern Hemisphere of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, this lake certainly is an exotic destination, as revealed in this flyover video made with data from the Cassini spacecraft.

This is no ordinary lake. Titan is the only world other than Earth to have liquid on the surface. However, these lakes are made, not of water, but of liquid hydrocarbons like methane and ethane. Titan's surface is far too cold for liquid water, being ten times further from the sun than Earth is from the sun. Instead, the hills around the lake are made of solid water ice.

Despite the alien nature of Titan's cold chemistry, Cassini found some similarities to earthly bodies of water. Valleys, flooded coastlines, bays, and deltas were spied in more recent flyovers. Seasonal changes in the level of the lake have been measured as well. Since the lake was discovered in 2004, the shoreline has receded by six miles.

Titan's year is 29 Earth-years long, so we've only seen part of this seasonal cycle. As the Southern Hemisphere heats up, methane gas evaporates from the lake or escapes into the porous rocks. The amount of methane gas produced by the changes seen so far exceeds the methane expelled by all the cows on Earth over a year, according to the press release. Yeah, might want to rethink that vacation after all.

Titan is an exciting destination scientifically, as it may hold an example of life as we don't know it. For now, I'll continue to vacation by a water lake right here on Earth. Nevertheless, my cabin-mates are intrigued by the idea of being able to fuel their jet skis right from the lake itself!

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cassini