Nature Astronomy: the first global geological map of Titan

A new study, published in Nature Astronomy this week, has drawn the first global geological map of Saturn’s moon Titan.

The study has been published today, monday 18 November 2019, on Nature Astronomy, with title A global geomorphologic map of Saturn’s moon Titan. 10.1038/s41550-019-0917-6. The researchers, to draw their new map, have used scientific data detected by the Cassini probe. The Cassini – Huygens mission, is a collaboration between NASA, ESA – European Space Agency and ASI – Agenzia Spaziale Italiana. It’s managed by JPL and Caltech under a contract with NASA.

According to the scientist involved in this study, this map “will add to our understanding of the history and evolution of Titan”. Their observation also “demonstrate the extent to which Titan is shaped by its methane cycle. The poles are humid enough to keep liquid bodies of methane, whereas the arid equatorial climate keeps wind-shaped dunes intact”.

As is known, Titan is a unique moon in our Solar System. It has “a dense atmosphere and a full, methane – based hydrological cycle, which has a significant impact on its surface and evolution”. Due to its hazy atmosphere, it’s not possibile to see its surface, and “it has been difficult to obtain a global vision of Titan’s geology”. The researchers have used “data from the infrared and radar instruments on board Cassini to reconstruct and map Titan’s surface, including its poles”.

The study has identified “six major geological forms” and their specific “relative age” and specific “distribution across the globe”. The Titan’s map indicates that the moon “geology depends strongly on latitude”. The study has identified dune fields, the youngest terrains,  dominating the equator. And lakes, that on the opposite are “concentrated at the poles”. The bigger part of Titan is aniway “covered by featureless organic plains, widespread at mid – latitudes”.

Authors

R. M. C. Lopes, M. J. Malaska, A. M. Schoenfeld, A. Solomonidou, S. P. D. Birch, M. Florence, A. G. Hayes, D. A. Williams, J. Radebaugh, T. Verlander, E. P. Turtle, A. Le Gall and S. D. Wall.

Link Fede e Ragione, italian version – Nature Astronomy: la prima mappa geologica globale di Titano.

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