New Map of Titan

Pablo Tucker
November 22, 2019

The first-of-its-kind map reveals a world that is similar-looking to Earth - specifically, Titan is chock-full of mountains, plains, valleys, craters and lakes.

Cassini's spacecraft gathered a great deal of information about Saturn and its moons during its space exploration from 2004 to 2017.

The map was developed by a team at Arizona State University, in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). This year, in June, NASA unveiled Dragonfly, the latest mission in its New Frontiers program, to explore Titan, which could potentially host extraterrestrial life. Dragonfly, a NASA rotorcraft lander mission, will take advantage of Titan's environment to sample materials and determine surface composition in different geologic settings.

Data from the craft's visible and infrared instruments were also used to capture images of the moon's larger features through the thick methane haze.

This study is an example of using combined datasets and instruments.

If there comes a day when humans aren't fit to live on Earth anymore, or the possibility of touring the solar system opens up, here's hoping the wonderfully weird world that is Titan, is in the mix. A little over one percent of its surface is filled with liquid, but unlike on Earth, the liquids in question is not water but liquid methane.

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.

Recently, researchers released the first complete map of the surface of Saturn's Titan and it was found out that the celestial satellite shares many similarities with our home-Earth. The map shows that the different geologic terrains have a clear distribution with latitude, globally, and that some terrains cover far more area than others.

Hilly and mountainous areas, thought to represent exposed portions of Titan's crust of water ice, represent 14 percent of the surface. Intriguingly, even Titan's atmosphere is similar to Earth's atmosphere in its ancient days.

Lopes said Titan would qualify as a planet in its own right if it weren't parked in orbit around Saturn. "It will be really exciting".

In that time, it discovered six more moons around Saturn, three-dimensional structures towering above Saturn's rings, and a giant storm that raged across the planet for almost a year. But instead of water, the pools mottling the moon's surface consist of liquid methane. This is a breakthrough discovery as astronomers haven't been able to find anything this close to Earth in the Solar System.

The colorful globe of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, passes in front of the planet and its rings in this true color snapshot from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. 'We've completely rewritten the textbooks about Saturn'.

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