NASA not too long ago unveiled a brand new mission to fly to Saturn’s moon, Titan, which might probably host extraterrestrial life. However earlier than it will get there, the area company has mapped out the celestial satellite tv for pc for the primary time, additional showcasing its similarities to Earth.
The map, revealed within the journal Nature Astronomy, factors out six geological options on Titan, together with plains, dunes, craters, lakes, “hummocky or mountainous terrains” and different kinds of terrains. Not like Earth, the lakes are product of frozen methane as an alternative of water.
“Titan has an lively methane-based hydrologic cycle that has formed a posh geologic panorama, making its floor one among most geologically numerous within the photo voltaic system,” mentioned Rosaly Lopes, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a press release.
NASA UNVEILS NEW MISSION TO FLY TO SATURN’S MOON, TITAN, WHICH COULD BE HOME TO ALIEN LIFE
“Regardless of the totally different supplies, temperatures and gravity fields between Earth and Titan, many floor options are related between the 2 worlds and might be interpreted as being merchandise of the identical geologic processes,” Lopes added. “The map exhibits that the totally different geologic terrains have a transparent distribution with latitude, globally, and that some terrains cowl much more space than others.”
The researchers used information from NASA’s Cassini probe, which orbited Saturn for 13 years, whizzing previous Titan greater than 120 occasions. Cassini discovered that roughly 65 p.c of Titan’s floor is roofed by plains and the mysterious lakes are close to the moon’s north pole.
“The Cassini mission revealed that Titan is a geologically lively world, the place hydrocarbons like methane and ethane take the function that water has on Earth,” planetary geologist David Williams added within the assertion. “These hydrocarbons rain down on the floor, movement in streams and rivers, accumulate in lakes and seas, and evaporate into the environment. It is fairly an astounding world!”
In September 2017, Cassini made its “loss of life plunge” into Saturn’s environment, ending its 20-year lengthy journey.
SATURN’S MOON TITAN HAS A LAKE WITH FEATURES SIMILAR TO EARTH, COULD SUPPORT LIFE
Titan continues to be a supply of fascination for researchers, with some even suggesting it might help life. Earlier this yr, NASA introduced the most recent mission in its New Frontiers program to discover the moon.
Often called Dragonfly, the mission will see a rotorcraft fly “to dozens of promising places” on Titan after it arrives in 2034, following a 2026 launch.
Titan’s environment is 4 occasions as dense as Earth’s, with NASA likening it to that of early Earth. In April, researchers found that lakes on Titan are full of liquid methane, using information from Cassini. Mud storms had been noticed on the celestial satellite tv for pc in September 2018, which raised the prospect the storms might be a precursor to alien life on the celestial physique.
In January 2019, researchers revealed that contemporary rainfall had been noticed on Titan in 2016, which precipitated a reflective function close to the north pole of the moon.
Titan shouldn’t be the one celestial satellite tv for pc of Saturn to intrigue scientists. In June 2018, researchers acknowledged that they’d discovered the “constructing blocks” for all times on Enceladus, having found complicated natural molecules.
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