Titan, the largest moon of the gas giant Saturn, hides many mysteries. Behind a thick haze of its dense nitrogen atmosphere for a long time from the eyes of the researchers was hiding one very interesting geological feature, which was possible only now. In an article published in the journal Nature Astronomy reported the presence on the surface of this satellite of a huge ice “corridor”, which stretches for 6.3 thousand kilometers, which is approximately 40 of the circumference of the cosmic body.
On Titan, as on Earth, rains, and there are whole liquid sea, but they are not filled with water, and methane. Trying to understand its source, a planetary scientist at Arizona state University Caitlin Griffith and her team of researchers found something incredible — long ice cover, located in the Equatorial region of the satellite and covering nearly half of the Titanium. “Corridor” is between 30 ° e, 15 ° North latitude and 110 ° e, 15 ° South latitude and has a length of about 6.3 thousand km.
Ice “corridor” marked in blue
To reveal its helped analyze many thousands of images of the top layer of the surface of the satellite derived visible and infrared mapping spectrometer spacecraft “Cassini”. Thanks to him, scientists were able to detect weak surface indications of organic substances on the surface of Titan.
“This icy corridor is puzzling, because it is not correlated with any surface features or dimensions of popularnosti,” comments Griffith.
The researchers note that very surprised by the existence of such features on the moon’s surface. On Titan the molecules of atmospheric methane is constantly broken down by sunlight. The resulting atmospheric haze settles on the surface and accumulates in the form of organic deposits rapidly depleting atmospheric methane.
Scientists can’t understand how in this strange, humid and polluted environment in which Griffith describes as “a very unusual version of the Earth”, can fit such geological feature, so I suspect that the question in this case is a “relic of another era companion, frozen in time.”
“It is possible that we only see a geological feature that appeared on the satellite at the time when it was quite different. Given the current environment of Titan, we can’t explain what we see,” says Griffith.
According to one hypothesis the researchers, this geological structure may be a legacy of cryovolcanism occurring on Titan in the past. The satellite could be ice volcanoes, vybrasyvalsya in the atmosphere of water, ammonia or methane, not magma as we have on Earth. Team Griffith began to study the composition of Titan’s surface, partly hoping to find slim small cryovolcanism candidates. But after analyzing half of the surface of the satellite, they found nothing.
“Given that our research and past work indicates that Titan currently is not volcanically active, the trail corridor is probably a remnant of the past. We find this feature on steep slopes, but not on all slopes. This suggests that the ice corridor at present is eroded, potentially revealing the presence of ice and organic layers,” explains Griffith.