Saturn’s Moon Titan Has Earth-like Features

Posted: Jan 7 2018, 9:44am CST | by , Updated: Jan 7 2018, 9:50am CST, in Latest Science News


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Saturn’s Moon Titan has Earth-like Features
Credit: NASA

A new global topographic map of Titan provides a revealing glimpse into the surface of the alien world

Using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, scientists have created a new global topographic map of Titan. The map offers a global view of the highs and lows of Titan’s surface and opens a new window into understanding the physical features of the Saturn’s moon.

Titan is the second largest moon in our solar system, behind Jupiter's Ganymede. It is the only moon in our solar system known to have Earth-like atmosphere. Apart from Earth, Titan is also only place that has lakes and seas on its surface, but they are filled with liquid methane and ethane, rather than water.

Titan harbors three large seas, all located close to the moon's north pole. The map reveals that these three seas share a common equipotential surface, meaning they form a sea level, just as Earth’s oceans do. And their elevation level is also same.

“We’re measuring the elevation of a liquid surface on another body 10 astronomical units away from the sun to an accuracy of roughly 40 centimeters. Because we have such amazing accuracy we were able to see that between these two seas the elevation varied smoothly about 11 meters, relative to the center of mass of Titan, consistent with the expected change in the gravitational potential. We are measuring Titan’s geoid. This is the shape that the surface would take under the influence of gravity and rotation alone, which is the same shape that dominates Earth’s oceans.” Alex Hayes, assistant professor of astronomy from Cornell University said in a statement.

The map also reveals several new features on Titan, including new mountains, none higher than 700 meters. New data also suggests that Titan is a bit more flatter than was previously known.

It took researchers about a year to complete the map. Despite the fact that Titan has been observed for years, only 9 percent of its topography is imaged in high-resolution. 25-30 percent of the topography has been studied in lower resolution, while the remainder of the moon was mapped using techniques like interpolation algorithm and a global minimization process.

The new map of Titan is a valuable tool for learning more about one of the most Earth-like and interesting worlds in the solar system.

Paul Corlies, a doctoral student at Cornell says. “The main point of the work was to create a map for use by the scientific community.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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