Titan, which is Saturn’s largest moon, has been known to have seas and lakes of liquid methane and ethane dotting its surface. A new study was conducted for researchers to find out how these hollows were formed on Titans surface.
European Space Agency’s Cassini spacecraft supplied some data through which the scientists believe that the depressions in the surface are formed in a process similar to how sinkholes on Earth are formed.
It is because of Titans freezing temperatures of -292 degrees, that these holes conatain no water but liquid methane and ethane. On Earth, sinkholes form due to erosion of dissolvable rocks like limestone.
In a calculation done by the research team, led by Thomas Cornet, to figure out how long it would take for areas of Titan’s surface to dissolve in order to create the sinkhole like features, it was found that it would take about 50 million years to create a 300-foot (100-meter) depression at Titan’s surface, which are moderately rainy. At lower latitudes, the time involved was much longer—approximately 375 million years.
Thomas Cornet explained, “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 case of landscape evolution on Titan and could be the beginning of its lakes.”
In 16 June 2014’s flyby of Dione by Cassini (another Saturn Moon) it caught and sent back visuals of its rugged surface. Dropping to within 295 miles, the spacecraft will make a final flyby of Dione in August.
In 2016 Cassini will begin planning for its final mission to dive though the distance between Saturn and its bands.
The study highlights the similarities and differences between geological processes on Earth and Titan.