NASA completes 1st global geologic map of Titan

NASA scientists have finalized the first map showing the global geology of Saturn's largest moon Titan, according to a release of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Monday. 

The map utterly reveals a dynamic world of dunes, lakes, plains, craters and other terrains, said the JPL.

"Titan is the only planetary body in the solar system other than Earth noted to have stable liquid on its surface. But in place of water raining down from clouds and filling lakes and seas as on Earth, on Titan what rains down is methane and ethane ... that behave as liquids in Titan's frigid climate," it said.

"Titan has a dynamic methane-based hydrologic cycle that has shaped a complex geologic landscape, making its surface one of most geologically varied in the solar system," Rosaly Lopes, a planetary geologist at JPL and lead author of new research used to expand the map, was quoted as saying by the JPL.

" in spite of the different materials, temperatures and gravity fields between Earth and Titan, many surface features are the same between the two worlds and can be interpreted as being products of the same geologic processes," she said. 

According to the release, Lopes and her team worked with fellow planetary geologist David Williams of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University in Tempe. Their findings, which cover the relative age of Titan's geologic terrains, were recently published in the journal Nature Astronomy. 

"Lopes' team used data from NASA's Cassini mission, which operated between 2004 and 2017 and did more than 120 flybys of the Mercury-size moon. Specifically, they used data from Cassini's radar imager to perforate Titan's opaque atmosphere of nitrogen and methane," said the JPL.

"In addition, the team used data from Cassini's visible and infrared instruments, which were capable of capturing some of Titan's larger geologic features through the methane haze," it said.

"This study is an example of using fused datasets and instruments," Lopes said.

"Although we did not have global coverage with synthetic aperture radar (SAR), we used data from other instruments and other modes from radar to connect characteristics of the different terrain units so we could infer what the terrains are even in areas where we don't have SAR coverage," she said.

Source: Xinhua

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