Thinking of the moon, you can think of a rocky, crater-filled desert surface with little to wander in your rover and collect rocks. While the Earth Moon is certainly the embodiment of the dead world, there are over 200 months in our solar system orbiting planets and asteroids. Fortunately for scientists, the universe is too creative to make all moons as static as ours.
Using newly analyzed data from NASA's Cassini mission, astronomers published a study in Nature Astronomy this week about a new surface map. Saturn's biggest moon, Titan. The first map of its kind reveals a world that looks similar to Earth – namely Titan is full of piles of mountains, plains, valleys, craters and lakes. This makes it different from other parts of the solar system, unlike Earth. Interestingly, even Titan's atmosphere is similar to Earth's in ancient times.
"Titanium has an active methane-based hydrological cycle that has shaped a complex geological landscape, making its surface one of the most geologically diverse in the solar system," the authors of the paper in the paper. "Despite the differences in materials, temperatures and gravitational fields between Earth and Titan, many of their surface properties are similar and can be interpreted as the product of the same geological processes."
While scientists have already looked into the diverse terrain of the moon, surprise.
"I was a little surprised that the plans were more Titan than I thought," Rosaly Lopes, planetary scientist at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, et al. the author of the study, said Salon. In particular, the map shows that the moon's surface is two-thirds of flat plains, 17 percent of sand dunes, 14 percent of hills or mountains, and 1.5 percent of valleys. Slightly more than one percent of its surface is filled with liquid, but unlike Earth, it is not water but liquid methane.
"Titanium has the wind to create vast plains, has rain, has lakes, seas" Rivers, so it's really a different month than the usual crater surface you see a lot, "Lopes added.
Titan's diversity and resemblance to Earth make the Moon a place to find microbial life.
places in the solar system where life seems to have evolved because we have a combination of many organic materials, ”Lopes added.
Unfortunately, we will probably have to wait another two decades to find out. NASA plans to send a Dragonfly mission to Titan by 2034 to fly the surface and study the moon in detail. Because Titan has an atmosphere somewhat stronger than Earth's temperature, and temperatures that are cold but not cold, a rotor robot might buzz around a busy month.
Meanwhile, scientists think about diversity on Earth. terrain of the moon, but also where there are different formations. Most of the moon's methane lakes are close to its North Pole, which could be due to Saturn's elliptical orbit around the Sun, which has caused longer years in the northern hemisphere than the southern hemisphere.
Tracy Gregg, a planetary geologist at the University of Buffalo, New York, told Nature that this map will help scientists answer important questions about Titan. "One of them is what changes have gone through Titan, which are seasonal, and what changes could be triggered by the Inner [heat] Titan?" He says.
Lopes said Titan would qualify as a planet in his
“Titan is a very different moon, a very different world, and if it were not in orbit around Saturn, we would say it is a planet because it has a second the densest atmosphere as a solid body in the solar system. Venus is the first, Titan, the second, the Earth, the third, "said Lopes.
" I think if we study Titan more, we will be able to find out more about what led to the development of a very different moon, "she added.