Ice-breaking news on Titan!

Titan as a mosaic from the Cassini spacecraft. Image credit: JPL/NASA/Univ. of Arizona

Titan as a mosaic from the Cassini spacecraft. Image credit: JPL/NASA/Univ. of Arizona

Good morning, Earthlings!

We interrupt our weekly blog-cast with some exciting news from our Solar System…an amazing feature was discovered on Titan!

Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, was imaged in-depth by the Cassini spacecraft. Scientists are still going strong in analyzing the huge amounts of data that Cassini has given us. Recently discovered within the depths of that data was a large latitudinal band across Titan- a band of water ice!

This has several implications and questions:

1- water ice is considered to be a “base rock”, meaning any water ice exposure on Titan would mean weathering down

2- that much weathering means there may not be any currently active cryovolcanism, meaning any candidate sources of cryovolcanism is considered ancient

3- the water ice is only found near the equatorial regions of Titan, so what does that mean for the dynamic activity at the poles?

4- How does the water ice mix with the huge swaths of organics and other volatile ices found at the surface?

Water ice is shown as the light blue coloring in these Cassini-processed images of the surface of Titan. (Image: © Caitlin Griffith/UA Lunar & Planetary Laboratory)

Water ice is shown as the light blue coloring in these Cassini-processed images of the surface of Titan. (Image: © Caitlin Griffith/UA Lunar & Planetary Laboratory)

You can read the latest published paper here in Nature Astronomy: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-019-0756-5

Thank you for reading and we’ll continue next week with our regularly scheduled program…

Caitlin Ahrens