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The first map showing the global geology of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, has been completed and fully reveals a dynamic world of dunes, lakes, plains, craters and other terrains.
Planetary geologist David Williams of Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration worked with a team of researchers, led by planetary geologist Rosaly Lopes of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to develop this global geologic map of Titan. The map, and their findings, which include the relative age of Titan's geological terrains, were recently published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Titan - Body - System - Earth - Liquid
Titan is the only planetary body in our solar system other than Earth known to have stable liquid on its surface. But instead of water raining down from clouds and filling lakes and seas as on Earth, on Titan what rains down is methane and ethane—hydrocarbons that we think of as gases but that behave as liquids in Titan's frigid climate.
"Titan has an active methane-based hydrologic cycle that has shaped a complex geologic landscape, making its surface one of most geologically diverse in the solar system," said lead author Lopes.
Materials - Temperatures - Gravity - Fields - Earth
"Despite the different materials, temperatures and gravity fields between Earth and Titan, many surface features are similar between the two worlds and can be interpreted as products of the same geologic processes. The map shows that the different geological terrains have a clear distribution with latitude, globally, and that some terrains cover far more area than others," Lopes said.
Lopes' team used data from NASA's Cassini mission, which operated between 2004 and 2017 and did more than 120 flybys of the Mercury-size moon Titan. Specifically, they used data from Cassini's radar imager to penetrate Titan's opaque atmosphere of nitrogen and methane. In addition, the team used data from Cassini's visible and infrared instruments, which were able to capture some of Titan's...
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