Cassini discovered flooded canyons on the Saturn’s moon that are filled with liquid hydrocarbons.
The spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn ever since 2004 when it arrived close enough to the planet. Its mission will end in 2017. However, the device has sent enough data on Earth to keep scientists busy for years.
The new research focuses on Titan’s canyons, which are flooded by liquid hydrocarbons. The study makes a further comparison with what happens at Lake Powell and Arizona’s Grand Canyon.
The data was collected during the 2013 flyby of the Saturn’s moon and refers to the channels that spread out from the large Ligeia Mare. The lake is placed in the north polar region, and it contains liquid methane.
The channels are narrow, with a width of less than half a mile and slopes of 40 degrees, and they are up to 1,870 feet in depth.
In the images, the channels appear to be dark, which made scientists believe that they are also filled with liquid. No one knew if the material was saturated sediment made of ice or an actual fluid element.
During this particular flyby, Cassini used the radar as an altimeter, measuring the heights on Titan. The researchers used these measurements and combined them with radar images and discovered that the channels contained fluids.
The scientists think that the deep cuts were created by a long process or by a violent one, and proposed several scenarios surrounding their apparition.
„It’s likely that a combination of these forces contributed to the formation of the deep canyons, but at present it’s not clear to what degree each was involved,” said Valerio Poggiali of the University of Rome, one of the researchers who studied the Cassini data.
In order to discover what produced the flooded canyons on Titan, the scientists drew parallels to the processes on Earth that created channels inside the surface.
For example, the Grand Canyon from Arizona was caused by powerful erosions combined with a surface uplift. The rising terrain made the river cut deeper into the landscape, and over several million years the canyon was completely formed.
On the other hand, the Lake Powell artificial reservoir was created by frequent water level variations. As the water level in the lake drops, the erosion rate of the river increases.
The scientists are amazed to find on Titan formations that are similar to those on Earth, as there are vast differences between the compositions of the two planets. Earth is warm and with a surface full of rocks, and Titan has a cold weather and rivers of methane. However, the canyons appear in both worlds, making researchers wonder how the forces on other planets really work.
Image Source: Wikipedia