Saturn’s largest moon (and the second largest moon in the solar system), Titan, has always been shrouded in mystery. A thick layer of methane clouds obscured the surface of Titan and prevented scientists from getting an in-depth look at its many geological features. Despite this, scientists have finally been able to peer through the methane clouds thanks to the Cassini probe, and what they found was quite interesting.
The Cassini probe orbited Saturn between 2004 and 2017 and flew past Titan more than 120 times before crashing into the surface of Saturn. Thanks to those many fly-bys, Cassini’s radar instruments had more than enough time to examine Titan’s features, which resulted in the first ever global geological map of the moon.
“Titan has an active methane-based hydrologic cycle that has shaped a complex geologic landscape, making its surface one of the most geologically diverse in the solar system,” said Rosaly Lopes, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement.
When examining data from the Cassini probe, scientists found that dunes and lakes were relatively young, while geological features like mountain terrains appeared to be older.
Image credit: NASA
“Despite the differences in materials, temperatures and gravity fields between Earth and Titan, many of their surface features are similar and can be interpreted as products of the same geologic processes,” the scientists said in an article in Nature Astronomy.
Scientists note that much like Earth, Titan’s surface was likely sculpted by impact craters, liquid and air driven erosion, tectonic plate movements, methane rainfall and possibly volcanic activity. The poles of Titan are made up large methane lakes.
To add even more mystery to Titan, scientists explained that in 2016 they noticed a strange reflection at the poles of Titan. They later acknowledged the reflection as being fresh rainfall.
Feature Image: Pixabay