From space, Titan (also known as Titan) looks very similar to Earth. However, things get really interesting when you actually start getting a deep understanding of the landscape that makes up that moon. Viewed from space, the scenery on Titan could be beautiful. But, on the surface, the landscape is cut by flowing rivers of liquid methane, and the land itself is composed of hydrocarbons.
For years, scientists have wondered how fragile components like the hydrocarbons on Titan can withstand the intense nitrogen winds and liquid methane that blanket the planet. With the new study, Mathieu Lapôtre, associate professor of geological sciences at Stanford University, and other researchers may have discovered a combination that could help keep the topography on Titan from being worn away.
According to them published ingeophysical research letters, a new model based on sintering, winds and seasonal changes could explain how the topography on Titan has remained the same over time.
To determine how Titan’s topography survived, scientists focused their efforts on deposits called oolites. These deposits are found on Earth and are thought to be similar in composition to those found on Saturn’s moons. Thus, oolites may be the closest thing researchers will have to properly studying Titan’s landforms anytime soon.
What makes oolites so intriguing is that these deposits are eroding as they grow. These particles add to the material due to a process called chemical precipitation. Then, at the same time, the water in which they live can erode those materials. This allows the oolites to maintain a consistent size.
The researchers believe that the sediments that make up the landscape on Titan may have used a similar process. They also believe that seasonal liquid transport cycles on Titan may also play a role in the operation of this process. The researchers also believe that a similar process may have been active on Mars in the past.
“Our study shows that on Titan – as was the case on Earth and Mars in the past – we have an active depositional cycle that could explain Geomorphic latitudinal distribution through episodic wear and sintering driven by Titan’s seasons.”