The surface of Saturn’s moon Titan looks a bit like Earth, and a new study finally explains why.
Saturn’s largest moon Titan Features some very Land– Like landscape: lakes, rivers, labyrinthine valleys, soft sand dunes. However, these geological formations on Titan are made of completely different materials. Instead of water, it’s liquid methane that flow through rivers, and instead of sand, it is hydrocarbons that flow into the sand dunes.
For years, scientists have been baffled as to how these landscapes came to be, given their non-Earth-like composition. But they have now decided on a very plausible theory.
Because Titan’s deposits are assumed to be made of solid organic compounds, they must be more brittle than the silicate-based deposits found on Earth. Thus, nitrogenous winds and liquid methane should erode Titan’s sediments down to fine dust, which would not be able to support such diverse structures.
A team led by Matthew LaPotter, associate professor of geosciences at Stanford University, has come up with a potential solution: a combination of felting, wind and seasonal change may be able to do the trick on Titan.
The researchers studied a type of sediment called ooids, which can be found on Earth, and which have a composition similar to Titan.
The worm can be found in tropical waters where it forms very fine granules. These granules simultaneously collect material by chemical precipitation and erode into the sea. As a result, they maintain a constant volume.
Researchers think something similar may happen on Titan.
“We hypothesized that sintering—which involves the fusing of adjacent grains together into one piece—could balance erosion as winds move the grains,” Lapotre. He said in a statement.
The team then analyzed atmospheric data from Titan as it was recorded during Cassini important to determine how these sediments might have formed such vastly different geological features that have been observed around the planet.
The researchers discovered that winds were more common around the moon’s equator, creating ideal conditions for sand dunes to develop. Elsewhere, however, the team suspects that low winds allowed the formation of coarse grains, and thus the formation of more solid sedimentary rocks. From there, winds can erode hard rock into finer sediments, just as it does on Earth.
Moreover, because Titan is known to be the only celestial body in our group Solar System Besides the Earth’s seasonal liquid transport cycle, Lapotre’s team hypothesized that the movement of liquid methane likely contributes to erosion and sediment development as well.
“We show that on Titan – just as on Earth and what it was like on Mars – we have an active sedimentary cycle that can explain the latitudinal distribution of the landscape through occasional erosion and sintering from Titan’s seasons,” Laputre said. . “It’s great to think about how this alternate world exists so far, where things are very different, but very similar.”
Hypothesis Posted in Geophysical Research Letters On 1 April.