June 3, 2023
Seasonal cycles may be behind the landscape of Saturn's moon Titan

Seasonal cycles may be behind the landscape of Saturn’s moon Titan

The titan moon, Saturn, can have sand dunes and other landscape formations by processes that create substances based on hydrocarbons, forming sand or rocks; Then seasonal cycles help move the grains of this substance across the moon’s surface. The conclusion comes from a study led by Mathieu Laputre and colleagues, who created a model to explain the cycle processes and movement of grains.

In addition to methane seas and lakes, Titan has nitrogen winds that help carve hydrocarbon sand dunes. This moon is a preferred target for space exploration due to its habitability, and it is also the only known object in the world. Solar System with a seasonal fluid transport cycle — exactly the focus of the model the team developed, which shows how cycles work and could help scientists understand how the moon’s sedimentary environments work together.

Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, has rivers, lakes, and seas of methane (Image: Reproduction/NASA)

But before creating the model to simulate the landscape formation of Titan, the team had to answer a big question: How could organic compounds, which are more brittle than inorganic ones, turn into granules capable of forming structures? Perhaps the explanation for this lies in our planet, where rocks and silicate minerals on the surface turn into grains over time through erosion processes.

When this happens, these grains move with the help of winds and rivers to be deposited in layers of sediment that will one day form rocks. Something like this could happen on Titan, with the difference that the sediments are made of organic compounds This baffled scientists, who did not know how to prove that these compounds could become transportable granules.

Apparently, the answer behind this lies in inclusions, tiny spherical grains that form through chemical precipitation that allows them to grow, while erosion slows their expansion. These two mechanisms balance each other out, and researchers believe they occur in Titan. “We suggest that sintering—which involves the merging of neighboring grains into one piece—could balance the wear and tear when the grain is carried away by wind,” Laputre said.

A Titan mosaic created from data from the Cassini spacecraft (Image: Reproduction/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

With this hypothesis in hand, Laputre and colleagues worked with data on climate and the direction of grain transport by winds to explain dune formation at Titan’s equator, mid-latitude plains, and labyrinth topography near the poles. Ultimately, data modeling showed that winds are common near the equator, supporting the idea that the grains sandThere, important components of sand dunes can form.

The authors anticipate a disruption in transport on either side of the equator, where sintering can create increasingly hard grains that eventually transform them into equatorial rocks. Titan Plains. The grains may also be responsible for the formation of labyrinthine terrain near the lunar poles. Thus, the authors conclude that there are active sedimentary cycles on Titan, which may explain the latitudinal distribution of landscapes caused by seasonal cycles.

The article with the results of the study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

source: Geophysical Research Letters; via: Stanford University