First global geologic map of Saturn's largest moon Titan completed

19 Novembre, 2019, 20:37 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • SAR images showing examples of the main classes of geomorphologic units on Titan. Scale bars are 50 km with global area percentages covered by each major unit provided below. Image Lopes et al 2019

Using radar and infra-red data generated by the now-defunct Cassini probe, which completed a 20-year mission by crashing into Saturn in 2017, the scientists said they could fill in numerous gaps in mapping Titan, some 1.2 billion kilometres (800 million miles) from Earth. This is because, apart from it being the only moon known to have a dense atmosphere - it is denser than Earth's - it is also the only known body in space, other than our planet, where clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found.

Scientists, for the first time, have unveiled the geological map of Saturn's moon Titan, which is widely considered as a potential candidate to spot alien life beyond earth. Labels point to several of the named surface features.

Lead author Lopes said that Titan possesses energetic methane established hydrologic cycle that has constituted an intricate geologic landscape rendering its exterior one of the most geologically varied in the solar system.

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These observations demonstrate the extent to which Titan is shaped by its methane cycle - just like the Earth is shaped by the water cycle.

He further said that in spite of the varied materials, temperatures and gravity domain between Earth and Titan varied surface attributes are the same between the two worlds and can be translated as outcomes of similar geologic procedures. Their findings, which embody the relative age of Titan's geologic terrains, have been not too long ago printed within the journal Nature Astronomy.In accordance with the assertion, Lopes' staff used information from NASA's Cassini mission which operated between 2004 and 2017 and did greater than 120 flybys of the Mercury-size moon. Specifically, they used data from Cassini's radar imager to penetrate Titan's opaque atmosphere of nitrogen and methane. A thick layer of hazy methane clouds obscure the moon's surface and prevents an in-depth have a look at its necessary geological options. Rosaly says that the study is an example of combining datasets and instruments. The map indicates that Titan's geology depends strongly on latitude. "Although we did not have global coverage with synthetic aperture radar [SAR], we used data from other instruments and other modes from radar to correlate characteristics of the different terrain units so we could infer what the terrains are even in areas where we don't have SAR coverage". These hydrocarbons rain down on the surface, flow in streams and rivers, accumulate in lakes and seas and evaporate into the atmosphere.

Old data acquired by NASA's Cassini mission has given us our most complete look yet at the mysterious moon. "It's quite an astounding world!" The vehicle, formally dubbed a rotorcraft, would be the first NASA flying auto to carry out a science mission on one other world.


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