Titan, Saturn’s moon, may be the planet most similar to our Earth in the whole solar system thanks to its lakes and seas. A new study is now aiming to reveal how these holes formed on its surface.
Data from NASA and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Cassini spacecraft shows that the moon’s surface bears some similarities to sinkholes on earth. Titan is cold, at a temperature of -292 degrees, most of its lakes are filled with liquid ethane and methane, definitely not water. On Earth, sinkholes appear because dissolvable rock that supports the upper layers gets—surprise surprise—dissolved.
ESA scientists calculated how long it would take for the features to appear on titan’s surface using data from Cassini to adjust for Titan’s climate: the figure they came up with is about 50 million years for a 300 foot hole.
According to Thomas Cornet, lead scientists of the study at ESA “We found that the dissolution process occurs on Titan some 30 times slower than on Earth due to the longer length of Titan’s year and the fact it only rains during Titan summer.” “Nonetheless, we believe that dissolution is a major cause of landscape evolution on Titan and could be the origin of its lakes.”