NASA’s Cassini mission finds evidence of ‘space volcanoes’ on Saturn’s moon Titan: Report

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on June 17, 2020

File photo of NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley waving from his Tesla as they pass the VAB heading to Pad39A for the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. May 27, 2020. REUTERS   -  REUTERS

The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s Cassini mission to Saturn has found evidence of what scientists believe can be explosive volcanic eruptions on the planet’s moon Titan, according to media reports.

The research has been documented in a new study filed by the Planetary Science Institute in the Journal of Geophysical Research. Cassini is an orbiter that observed Saturn for years.

“Cassini was an orbiter that observed Saturn for more than 13 years before exhausting its fuel supply. The mission plunged it into the planet's atmosphere in September 2017, in part to protect its moon Enceladus, which Cassini discovered might hold conditions suitable for life,” according to NASA.

The data gathered by Cassini indicated morphological features on Titan. The mission indicated halos, islands, elevated ramparts and collapsed sections in the polar regions of Titan. This can be possible evidence of volcanic activity on Titan, according to the study, a News18 report said.

The study also suggests that this volcanic activity seems to be rather recent and is possibly active even today.

“The close association of the proposed volcanic craters with polar lakes is consistent with a volcanic origin through explosive eruptions followed by collapse, as either maars or calderas. The apparent freshness of some craters may mean that volcanism has been relatively recently active on Titan or even continues today,” said Charles Wood, co-author of the study, as quoted by Express.

Titan has a lot of land formations similar to those found on Earth such as sand dunes, river valleys and lakes, as suggested by the mission. These features have formed due to temperature differences on the surface of the planet and due to the heat of the Sun.

According to the study, there has been evidence of internal heat on Titan manifesting as cryovolcanoes on the surface, Wood said according to reports.

These cryovolcanoes are formed by melting the water ice crust into liquid water. This water then erupts onto Titan's surface. The craters found on Titan are similar to other volcanic landforms on Earth and Mars formed by “the explosion, excavation and collapse.”

The study further details how Titan has evolved through the ages and states that there may be a certain contributing factor to such eruptions at either end of the satellite.

Published on June 17, 2020

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