An strange moon of Saturn is being pounded by waves of methane

An strange moon of Saturn is being pounded by waves of methane

When a NASA spacecraft passed by Saturn’s largest moon in 2006, it discovered signs of sizable liquid things on the strange planet’s surface. The surprising finding suggested that Titan and Earth share a very comparable geography, as they are the only known worlds with surface rivers, lakes, and seas.

But Titan’s coastline isn’t as pleasant as ours. Titan is covered in a wicked mixture of ethane, methane, and other hydrocarbons, rather than water. If that’s not extreme enough, a recent study suggests that the moon’s wet terrain may be shaped by waves of greenhouse gas emissions slamming into its coasts.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s geological team set out to investigate if waves sculpted Titan’s shorelines into their present configurations. Researchers recreated the various forms of erosion that could have resulted in the shorelines seen in photos taken by the Cassini spacecraft almost two decades ago using computer models.

“We might be able to observe waves of liquid ethane and methane breaking on the beaches during storms if we were standing at the edge of one of Titan’s oceans. Additionally, they would have the ability to destroy the substance that makes up the coast,” MIT professor and research co-author Taylor Perron stated in an email. The journal Science Advances publishes the findings.

For years, scientists have disagreed about whether waves exist on Titan; some claim the moon’s liquid regions are mirror-smooth, while others observed rocky beaches. The researchers of the new study attempted to determine what would have caused the shoreline’s erosion by examining its shape rather than examining the photographs to determine whether or not Titan hosts waves.

The researchers ran three scenarios through a simulated sea with flooded river valleys surrounding its edges: no coastal erosion, erosion caused by waves, and uniform erosion, in which liquid gradually dissolves the material along a coast as it sloughs off under its own weight.

Perron noted, “We found that the final form produced by uniform erosion is quite different from that shaped by wave erosion, despite starting with the same shorelines.” Because of the flooded river valleys, they all sort of resemble the flying spaghetti monster, but the ends of the two forms of erosion are completely different.

Using Cassini’s radar photos, the researchers traced the shorelines of each sea on Titan and then applied their models to each water’s shoreline. The wave erosion model was found to be the most likely explanation for the form of all four seas. Based on our findings, Perron added, “we can conclude that waves are most likely to blame if the coastlines of Titan’s seas have eroded.”

Now, the scientists are getting ready to explore Titan’s winds and determine how powerful they need to be in order to generate waves powerful enough to damage the moon’s beaches.

Lead author of the study Rose Palermo, a former graduate student at MIT and research geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, stated in the release that Titan “presents this case of a completely untouched system.” “It might provide us with deeper insights into the basic processes that cause coasts to erode in the absence of human activity, which could lead to improved management of Earth’s coastlines in the future.”

Topics #Earth #Galaxy #methane #moon #NASA #news #Planet #Saturn #Solar System #spacecraft #strange moon #Universe

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