Of mysterious moons and albino elephants

9 Nov

I like having a little bit of mystery in my relationships, so I'm glad that the scientists haven't figured out what's under the hood of Titan just yet:

Scientists are none the wiser as to what awaits the Huygens space probe on Saturn's moon Titan when it lands, despite a close pass by its mothership.

The Cassini spacecraft will release the piggybacked Huygens probe towards Titan's atmosphere on Christmas Day.

It is thought Huygens could land on an ocean of liquid hydrocarbon, on solid ice, or squelch down on sludge.

UK mission scientists say that none of the landing scenarios that researchers envisaged have yet been ruled out.

On 26 October, Cassini slipped closer to Saturn's largest moon than it has ever been before and took highly detailed images of the surface with its cameras.

Link: BBC: Titan moon holds on to enigma.

On more terrestrial matters, scientists in India are looking for an albino elephant. It's not white though:

It's late afternoon in Yala national park, and Priviraj Fernando, a scientist from Sri Lanka's Centre for Conservation and Research, is carefully attaching movement-sensitive cameras to posts on the park boundary.

"We're hoping to catch the albino elephant on film, many herds come through here at night," Dr Fernando tells me, pointing out the piles of dung and the stripped branches of the acacia plants which they eat.

The 11-year-old female – nicknamed Sue – was recently spotted for the first time in 6 years. It is thought to be the only wild albino elephant in Asia.

"Generally when you see an albino animal you expect it to be white, that is if it has fur.

"Since elephants hardly have any fur you see the skin colour. It's like a very pale tanned colour. So, especially if it is wet, the contrast is absolutely amazing", says Dr Fernando.

Link: BBC: In search of the albino elephant.

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