For almost two decades, the global space sector has focused most of its research and funds on the Red Planet. The quest for building blocks of life is one of the most challenging missions. And yet, there are dynamic worlds that might actually have more things to share than Mars.
Saturn’s moon Titan is now in the spotlight, and scientists get ready for what it seems the most optimistic mission. Here is what you need to know.
Brave New Mission
Catherine Neish is a Western Space planetary geologist who plays a key role in an international and bold new mission: dispatching a robotic drone to Titan.
In recent research, Neish and her team at the ESA utilized imaging technology to analyze Titan. They discovered when impact craters are produced on Saturn’s most giant moon, it exposes relatively fresh “water ice” from the moon’s tiny crust.
On Titan, the atmospheric processes conceal the ice under a layer of sand-like organic matter. In the moon’s dry equatorial areas, the sand piles up. But, at a wetter and higher latitude, surface currents erode the sand away.
It is somehow challenging to say what is underneath Titan’s hazy atmosphere. Well, unless you have a multi-million dollar Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer like ESA’s, which gathered both infrared light and light visible to humans.
The team discovered that there’s no other place like moon Titan in the Solar System. Titan has more sand per area than anywhere else, and such a thing is intriguing.
Titan also has weather, but it’s not like here on Earth. It’s like the “ingredients” are all wrong.
Saturn’s moon has methane rain, organic sand getting blown around, and streams cutting through the surface. Everything is very dynamic, similar to what happens on Earth.
The team’s findings could prove handy in discovering old ecosystems frozen in the bottoms of impact craters. It could also prove invaluable when analyzing and monitoring techniques for the next Dragonfly drone mission to moon Titan.
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