Friday, October 2, 2009

Camped by a billabong.....say what?

Usually I leave commentary on latest amazing discoveries to others more qualified than myself. However due to the continued heavy spring rains that have south eastern australian grain farmers dancing for joy, and our rivers flowing again, my own observations have been heavily limited this week and I am forced to digress.

A number of blogs and astronomy sites were following with interest the latest images from Cassini of the "northern lake district" on Titan. (Sounds like a suburb that everyone would move to!) I still pinch myself that the Cassini-Huygens Mission has found the most amazing terrain in the solar system outside our own little blue-green home planet.

One particular article in the Astronomy online magazine caught my eye, it featured one of the photos and showed a hi-res strip of the northern rivers and lake, thought by mission scientists to contain flowing liquid methane.

The Hi-Res view shows clear semi-circular, horseshoe shapes in the upper river areas. Again, whilst I am not qualified to comment formally on this.....I could not help thinking, in fact I commented aloud - "they look like billabongs"!!!!

For those of you in the far flung northern hemisphere, who may not be familiar with the term "Billabong" - you may however remember from the Sydney Olympics and the famous Aussie song - "Waltzing Maltilda.....once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong...etc". A billabong is a body of water that is cut off from the main stream of the river when a water course changes direction during a flooding event and finds a different path of least resistance to the sea, carving a new channel that cuts off the older meandering stream - leaving it as an isolated "pond" often in a horse shoe shape.

In Victoria there is a town called Billabong.....camped by such a body of water. The murray river system contains many hundreds of these billabongs.

Again a closer look shows the very distinct patterns caused in the formation of the Billabong. I was struck by the similarities with the "horseshoe shapes" in the riverland areas on Titan.

It will be fascinating to see as the research unfolds, whether the shapes in the riverland areas of the northern polar area of Titan are forged by similar flows, of flooding and drying riverbeds, in the same fashion as our famous Murray River that borders Victoria and New South Wales.

With the current interest of NASA on planetary space exploration, who knows day we may yet be camped by another Billabong......with quite a view.

Disclaimer: Mission contollers as far as I am aware haven't made any comments on what those shapes are - my thoughts are comparitive observations only.

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