‘Possibility of life’: scientists map Saturn’s exotic moon Titan

Katie Ramirez
November 21, 2019

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency.

The colorful globe of Titan passes in front of Saturn and its rings in this true-color snapshot from NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 2011.

The global geologic map of Titan.

Titan's atmosphere is dense and hazy, just like Earth's.

SEE ALSO: Saturn Dethrones Jupiter With Its 20 New Moons. To take action, he constructed on his expertise working with radar photographs on NASA's Magellan Venus orbiter and from a earlier regional geologic map of Titan that he developed."The Cassini mission revealed that Titan is a geologically active world, where hydrocarbons like methane and ethane take the role that water has on Earth".

Titan is the only solar system object other than Earth boasting stable liquids on the surface, with lakes and seas of full of methane being major features at its polar regions. The geography of Titan, as it turns out, looks a lot like the continents of Earth, with rolling hills, dunes, and vast plains dotted with lakes.

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Lopes and colleagues work indicates that Titan's geology depends strongly on latitude.

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. The youngest surface features are the dune fields that dominate Titan's equatorial region, known as the Shangri-La Sand Sea, while lakes are concentrated at the poles.

"The most profound discovery of Cassini is that Titan is so diverse", says Ralph Lorenz, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

Rosaly Lopes, the lead author of this new research, says that Titan has an active methane-based hydrologic cycle that has shaped its complex geologic landscape. On Earth, hydrocarbons like methane exist primarily as gasses. However, the majority of Titan is covered by featureless organic plains, widespread at mid-latitudes.

The ultimate goal is for Dragonfly to visit an impact crater, where they believe that important ingredients for life mixed together when something hit Titan in the past, possibly tens of thousands of years ago. This can be the result of the world's economic weather cycles, and the distinct options throughout Titan recommend there are a variety of processes appearing on the surface of the moon, managed by the local weather, seasons, and elevation. "Organics are very important for the possibility of life on Titan, which many of us think likely would have evolved in the liquid water ocean under Titan's icy crust", Lopes said.

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