Saturn’s moon Titan has eerie lakes on its surface just like Earth

Posted: April 16, 2019 by oldbrew in Astronomy, atmosphere, Cycles, research, solar system dynamics
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Saturn seen across a sea of methane on Titan by Huygens probe 2005

Not sure they mean Earth also has eerie lakes – apart from Lake Erie perhaps. Titan, billed here by a researcher as ‘the most interesting moon in the solar system’, has some observed similarities with Earth, plus some quirks of its own.

There’s one other place in the solar system where liquid rains, evaporates, and seeps into the surface to create deep lakes: Saturn’s moon Titan, says Tech Times.

In this alien world, the Earth-like hydrologic cycle does not take place with water, but with liquid methane and ethane. In Titan’s ultra-cold environment, these gases behave just like water.

Two new papers published in the journal Nature Astronomy detailed the findings of the concluded Cassini mission, particularly the details on Titan’s lakes and their composition.

“Every time we make discoveries on Titan, Titan becomes more and more mysterious,” Marco Mastrogiuseppe, lead author and Cassini radar scientist from Caltech, says in a report from NASA. “But these new measurements help give an answer to a few key questions. We can actually now better understand the hydrology of Titan.”

Titan’s Deep Lakes Atop Mountains

In the first paper, a Mastrogiuseppe-led team reveal the results of their investigations on Titan’s lakes. It provides the first confirmation of the depth of these small western lakes with some reaching more than 300 feet, which suggests they formed when ice and solid organics dissolved and collapsed around them.

Prior to the study, the team was already aware that the moon’s bigger northern seas are made up of methane. However, they were surprised to find that the smaller southern lakes are also filled with methane. After all, when scientists previously measured the only major lake in the southern hemisphere, it was made up of both methane and ethane equally.

Another strange feature of Titan: one side of the northern hemisphere appeared to be an entirely different world from the other side, at least in terms of hydrology. In the East are massive seas combined with low elevation landforms of canyons and islands, while on the West there are small but deep lakes on top of rolling hills and plateaus.

“It is as if you looked down on the Earth’s North Pole and could see that North America had completely different geologic setting for bodies of liquid than Asia does,” Jonathan Lunine, a Cassini scientist and co-author of one of the papers, explains.

Full report here.

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