Unusual Ice Formation on Saturns Titan Moon Stretches for Miles

first_img University of Arizona researchers came across an unexpected discovery when they were trying to locate the source of methane on Saturn’s largest moon. The team found an unusual ice formation that wrapped almost halfway around Titan, stretching for thousands of miles.Caitlin Griffith, a professor in the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, and her team shared their findings in a paper published in Nature Astronomy on April 29. While searching for the origins of Titan’s methane and organics that coat its surface, the team analyzed this bizarre ice bedrock and how it might have developed on the huge moon, said a University of Arizona press release.While searching for the origins of Titan’s methane and the organics that coat its surface, LPL’s Professor Caitlin Griffith and her research team made the unexpected discovery of a large ice feature on Saturn’s largest moon. https://t.co/fDqZ1CFO3z— UA Lunar & Planetary Laboratory (@UALPL) April 30, 2019On Titan, atmospheric methane molecules are continuously ripped apart by sunlight, and the resulting atmospheric haze settles on Titan’s surface and gathers as organic sediments that rapidly deplete the atmospheric methane. No one knows the exact source of methane on Titan, except when methane evaporates from Titan’s polar lakes. However, Titan’s lakes have only a third of the methane in Titan’s atmosphere that will be depleted by geological time scales in the future.Our @CassiniSaturn spacecraft gathered radar data on its final flyby of Saturn’s largest moon in 2017, revealing that the small liquid lakes in Titan’s northern hemisphere are surprisingly deep, perched atop hills and filled with methane. Learn more: https://t.co/WDTVYqPP38 pic.twitter.com/tvrLLXHcWK— NASA (@NASA) April 16, 2019One potential theory involves the scenario of methane being supplied by subsurface reservoirs that vent methane into Titan’s atmosphere. Griffith’s team analyzed the composition of Titan’s surface, and hoped to find small cryo-volcanos candidates with icy flow features. The team studied 50 percent of Titan’s surface, and they couldn’t detect any cryo-volcanoes, however, Sotra, a singular region on Titan that looks like a cryo-volcano, displayed the strongest ice features. The large ice feature they found was a complete surprise, and it has a linear ice corridor that circles around 40 percent of the giant moon’s circumference.An artist’s concept of a dust storm on Titan. (Photo Credit: NASA/ESA/IPGP/Labex UnivEarthS/University Paris Diderot)“This icy corridor is puzzling, because it doesn’t correlate with any surface features nor measurements of the subsurface. Given that our study and past work indicate that Titan is currently not volcanically active, the trace of the corridor is likely a vestige of the past,” Griffith said in the press release. “We detect this feature on steep slopes, but not on all slopes. This suggests that the icy corridor is currently eroding, potentially unveiling presence of ice and organic strata.”The team also discovered many types of organic material in different regions. Lab simulations of Titan’s atmosphere produce biological compounds, such as amino acids, and these surface deposits could generate a similar effect.On Titan, the mysteries run deep. During its final flyby of Saturn’s giant moon, Cassini revealed that some of Titan’s methane lakes are surprisingly deep and perched atop hills. Learn more: https://t.co/39BS2VyLAQ pic.twitter.com/MjhXYynzpu— NASA Solar System (@NASASolarSystem) April 15, 2019Griffith studied thousands of spectral images taken of the topmost layer of Titan’s surface by Cassini’s Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer, and used a method that allowed for the detection of weak surface features. Griffith’s application of the principal components analysis (PCA) enabled Griffith to tease out Titan’s features that came from ice and organic sediments on its surface from the atmosphere haze. PCA leverages all of the pixels to point out main and subtle features, instead of measuring surface features individually for each pixel in the image.Following this step, Griffith’s team did a side-by-side comparison of their results with past studies, such as the Huygens probe, which touched down on Titan in 2005. According to the team, the comparison validated the PCA technique and the results. Next, the PCA technique will be applied to analyze the poles where methane seas are located on Titan.More on Geek.com:NASA’s Cassini Reveals Disappearing Lakes on Saturn’s Titan MoonNASA’s Cassini Reveals Secrets of Saturn’s Mini ‘Ravioli’ MoonsSaturn’s Rings Are Younger Than the Planet They Orbit Stay on target Hubble Captures Saturn’s ‘Phonograph Record’ Ring SystemTonight: See Saturn at Its Best and Brightest for the Year last_img

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