Monday, March 26, 2007

Dreaming of a hazy moon

Titan, Saturn's moon, is such a fascinating place.

Clues to Titan's smooth finish can be seen in the presence of vast tracts of sand dunes, river channels and evidence for cryovolcanism visible in Cassini images.

It is likely that a combination of burial in sand, erosion by methane or obliteration by the cold hand of cryovolcanism is responsible for paving over the craters. Cassini has already spotted vague circular features among Titan's sand dunes that may be evidence of craters undergoing burial.

Pinning down the rate of crater removal will be an important factor in dating the age of Titan's surface features, including those craters that have survived. 'We have no way of knowing how recent the known craters are, although Menrva is old enough that it has a fairly eroded rim, cut by river channels,' [Ralph] Lorenz [of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory] said.

This is what space exploration is all about. And this incredible stuff is in our stellar backyard! Imagine what waits to be discovered beyond our solar system.

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