NASA Cassini solves the mystery of dark material on Saturn’s moon Titan

NASA spacecraft Cassini has detected canyon network flooded with liquid hydrocarbons on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan. Images sent from the craft reveals that steep-sided canyons branching out from northern sea Ligeia Mare are flowing with liquid methane. Cassini also observed the nearby Canyons which are situated thousands of feet deep in the moon.

A new paper written in the journal Geophysical Research Letters describe how scientists used the data to find the hidden truth. To reach to a correct conclusion researchers used the recent altimetry data with previous radar images to make the final discovery.

How the scientists discovered the deep Canyons?

The images were collected from a close flyby around Titan that Cassini made in May 2013. The craft’s radar instrument focused on channels that are branched out from Ligeia Mare, the second-largest hydrocarbon sea on Saturn’s Moon.

During the flyby, the spacecraft used microwaves to get closer to the surface of Saturn’s moon. The returned signals gave scientists clear pictures about two important aspects of the planet. First, it gave researchers clear picture that the moon has liquid methane and secondly that the surface   of canyons is smooth.

Cassini Spots Liquid-Filled Canyons On Titan

Well, it is not the first time that scientists has seen images of the canyons, but what remained unclear was whether the dark material flowing on the moon was liquid or saturated sediment made of ice.

One question that has continued to be a mystery for a while was how deep was the canyon? But the mystery was solved when radar signal echoed and bounced from the canyon floors and edges; this helped the researchers to get the right measurement of the depths.

Scientists have found out that the narrow canyons are quite deep. Some of the Canyons measure 790 feet to 1870 feet. Moreover, the observation reveals that a particular channel called Vid Flumina are narrow canyons which are less than half a mile wide.

How were the canyons formed?

It was discovered that there was presence of deep cuts on the landscape indicating that whatever process helped to create this was active for a long time. On the other hand, there is a possibility that whatever created it may have eroded faster than other areas on Titan’s surface.

Valerio Poggiali who is the lead author of this study says that it may have taken place because of a combination of sea level and uplift of the terrain. This process may have played a catalyst to form flooded canyons on the Moon.

However, questions are still being raised as to what degree this factors played the role in the formation of liquid methane. But the researchers are hopeful that they may be able to produce more comprehensive studies to understand how Saturn moon landscape came into shape.