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Mapping Titan, the Most Earth-Like Body in Our Solar System

19 Nov 2019, 02:17 UTC
Mapping Titan, the Most Earth-Like Body in Our Solar System
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In an image created by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, sunlight reflects off lakes of liquid methane around Titan’s north pole. Cassini radar and visible-light images allowed researchers to put together the first global geological map of Saturn’s largest moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho)
Saturn’s moon Titan has lakes and rivers of liquid hydrocarbons, temperatures that hover around -300 degrees Fahrenheit, and a thick haze that surrounds it and has cloaked it in mystery. An unusual place for sure, but perhaps what’s most unusual is that Titan more closely resembles Earth of all the planets and moons in our solar system.
This is because like only Earth it has that flowing liquid on its surface, it has a climate featuring wind and rain that form dunes, rivers, lakes, deltas and seas (probably of filled with liquid methane and ethane), it has a thick atmosphere and it has weather patterns that change with the seasons. The moon’s methane cycle is quite similar to our water cycle.
And now astronomers have used data from NASA’s Cassini-Huygens mission to map the entire surface of Titan for the first time. Their work has found a global terrain of mountains, plains, valleys, craters and lakes . ...

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