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article imageNASA's Cassini reveals the mysteries of Titan's lakes

By Tim Sandle     Apr 28, 2019 in Science
NASA's Cassini has revealed some surprises with Titan's lakes, as images of the flyby are processed by scientists. Recent analysis shows that the small liquid lakes in Titan's northern hemisphere are surprisingly deep.
While Cassini flew past Saturn's largest moon in 2017, NASA scientists are still studying and drawing new inferences from the data. This include previously unknown information about the small liquid lakes located in Titan's northern hemisphere. These lakes have surprised researchers, in terms of being deeper than anticipated. The image analysis also reveals the lakes to be located atop of hills and filled with methane.
Cassini has revealed considerable detail about the wonders of Saturn, the giant world ruled by raging storms and delicate harmonies of gravity. To add to this, data from the spacecraft is providing a rich stream of information about Titan.
Titan is the largest moon of Saturn. It is also the second-largest natural satellite in the Solar System (Jupiter's moon Ganymede). While Titan is primarily composed of ice and rocky material, the satellite has liquid hydrocarbon lakes located in its polar regions, where the relative lack of sunlight prevents evaporation. By being composed of methane and ethane these lakes contrast to the water lakes found on Earth.
For NASA scientists, finding that the smaller northern lakes were filled mostly with methane came as a surprise, according to research Marco Mastrogiuseppe. He states: ""Every time we make discoveries on Titan, Titan becomes more and more mysterious. But these new measurements help give an answer to a few key questions. We can actually now better understand the hydrology of Titan."
It is not just the composition of the lakes that are of interest. By discovering that the lakes are located far above sea level, this has revealed new images of landforms which protrude hundreds of feet above the surrounding landscape, with deep liquid lakes located on top. The researchers speculate that the lakes most likely formed when the surrounding bedrock of ice and solid organics chemically dissolved and collapsed, and they draw parallel to water lakes known as karstic lakes which are found on Earth (formed as the result of a collapse of subterranean caves).
The new revelations about the lakes are from a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, where the research paper is called "The case for seasonal surface changes at Titan’s lake district."
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