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Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:03 AM

Titan's lakes may have been formed by explosions of nitrogen

By David Szondy
September 10, 2019

A new study based on radar data from NASA's Cassini deep-space probe suggests that some of the smaller methane lakes on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, may have been formed by explosions of warming nitrogen. If true, this would mean that there are at least two mechanisms for forming Titanian lakes.

While there are thousands of bodies in our solar system, Titan is one of a handful that is of special interest to scientists because it is the only body other than the Earth where stable liquids sit on its surface.

Though Titan has a temperature of about -179 C (-290 F), it also has an atmosphere with a pressure 1.45 times that of the Earth. Obviously, this is much too cold a place for liquid water, but a mixture of methane and ethane that fills Titan's lakes, streams, and seas, and the moon even has its own methane cycle that is similar to the Earth's water cycle, with evaporation, cloud formation, and rainfall.

It's also thought that this similarity also extends to how the lakes formed, with the liquid methane dissolving the bedrock ice and frozen organic compounds in a manner like that of the karstic lakes of Earth, which are formed by the effect of water on soluble rocks like limestone, gypsum, and dolomite that forms subterranean caverns that collapse and flood.


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