Picture of a world where rain falls, collects ponds and ponds, goes around the rocks, and stretches, which falls again. There is only one catch: The world is Saturn & # 39; s moon, Titan where the rain is not water; it is fluid methane.
Two new papers to explore how it's familiar familiar, no water "water cycle" manifests over the Titan. To do so, two separate research teams were opened on data from the Cassini mission that ended in the Saturn system at September 2017 . Spacecraft has been flying over the past months for more than 100 times, gathering critical observations in this unique world.
Some of these observations have shown scientists something really extraordinary: their first glimpse of the fluid currently in the landscape, rather than just ghosts of such fluid . "Titan is the only world outside the Earth where we see bodies of liquid above," Rosaly Lopes, a planetary scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who worked on the Cassini mission but did not involve any new role . "Some of us would like to call the Titan of the Earth an external solar system." Related: NASA Can Decide This Year to Land a Drone at Saturn's Moon Titan
"Titan is the most interesting month in the solar system I think I'm getting some enemies, but I think it's really true, "Shannon MacKenzie, lead author on one of the new studies and a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University & # 39 ; s Applied Physics Laboratory, told at Space.com. But that does not mean that the moon is faithful. "Titan throws us many curveballs," he said.
MacKenzie's study analyzes a potential curveball: three tiny features that appear filled with liquid lake when Cassini sees them, but seems to be the time return the spacecraft to the area. Observations indicate that the liquid swallows or goes to the surrounding planets.
"lake lakes" can be evidence of periodic changes on the moon, MacKenzie and his coauthors believe. (The seven years of the Earth passed between two observations of the spacecraft area, where the northern hemisphere of the moon shifted from winter to spring.)
But the situation may not be very simple, since the two A set of observations has been taken by different instruments. Cassini was built to gather data on either its radar instrument or its visual and infrared light cameras, but not both at once. And in the first pass of the spacecraft, the region is too dark to use cameras.
MacKenzie and her colleagues in converting instruments are so important as potential variables. But he still believes that there are other things in the two passes, and that relatively straightforward fluid is there, then lost. Even though different signposts on two flybys were caused by some other phenomenon, MacKenzie said he was still interested in what could tell us about the hilarious month, among the reasonable candidates scientists where life can spill over the Earth. [1
But although MacKenzie focuses on three smaller lakes that seem to have gone, many lakes are visible throughout Cassini's observations in the region. In the second paper published today, scientists used radar data to study some small lakes.
When Cassini's last pass in Titan in April 2017, the spacecraft program was collected to collect a particular type of data, called altimetry, in the lake region to measure the height of others ingredient. Marco Mastrogiuseppe, a planetary scientist at Caltech, has used similar data to measure the depth of some of the marine waters of the Titan larger bodies of liquids, and the Cassini team is expected to do He also had the ponds.
Mastrogiuseppe and his colleagues made it into their new role, introducing underwater lakes more than 328 feet deep (100 meters) deep and founded their contents led by liquid methane . "We realize that the composition of the ponds is very, very similar to one of the female mare, the sea," he said. "We believe that these bodies are fed by local rains and then these bases, they are melting liquid."
That indicates that at the bottom of the Titan surface, the moon may host another feature that reminiscent of the Earth: caves. On Earth, many caves are formed by water that release surrounding rock types such as limestone, leaving a kind of landscape called karst characterized by spring, aquifers, caves and sinkholes.
think that they see similar karst-type characteristics. Nor did they find channels connecting all these different liquid features so the reason Mastrogiuseppe and others doubt that some of the liquids are may be absorbed in the surrounding terrain, such as the karst systems here on Earth. [19659002"AngTitanaytunaynamundongitonageologicallykatuladngEarthatangpag-aaralngmgapakikipag-ugnayansapagitanngmgalikidongkatawanatangheolohiyaayisangbagaynahindipanatinkayanggawin"sabiniLopesAngmgabagongpag-aaralaynagsisimulanggumawangnangyarisapamamagitanngpagtinginsamgapakikipag-ugnayannanaglalaronanglivesaisapangplanetarybody
Of course, more difficult to analyze the interactions so far, in a world that has never been the main focus of a mission. "We are talking about possible missions with robotic explorers who can crawl on lava tubes and caves on the moon and Mars," Lopes says. "Can we send one of them in the future on the type of crawling in this land and in the caves and find out what is under it?"
Such missions are unlikely to happen any time soon, but is seriously considered by the NASA project called Dragonfly to land a drone in a strange month. If selected, the mission will be launched in 2025 and will arrive in Titan after nine years. And if NASA does not select Dragonfly, chances are good that another concept of mission will come. "Titan is just cool to not come back to," MacKenzie said.
Both MacKenzie and Mastrogiuseppe papers are now published (April 15) in the journal Astronomy Nature.