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New Info From the Cassini Mission to Saturn • Mirror Daily


(Mirror Daily, United States) Most of what we know today about Saturn is thanks to Cassini, NASA’s spacecraft which has been gathering information on the ringed planet for years. The latest data is on Saturn’s moon, Titan, which seems to be crossed by canyons filled with liquid methane.

NASA sent Cassini to “spy” on Saturn more than ten years ago, in 2004, and they have been collected important information throughout the years. The mission of the spacecraft will finish in 2017, and the precious data will provide material for detailed future research.

For the time being, scientists reveal a discovery, namely the canyons on Titan, Saturn’s moon. Canyons are deep, steep valleys, at the bottom of which flow streams of water. On Titan, on the other hand, the canyons are filled with liquid hydrocarbons.

NASA revealed features of the canyons:

“The Cassini observations reveal that the channels – in particular, a network of them named Vid Flumina – are narrow canyons, generally less than half a mile (.6 km) wide, with slopes steeper than 40 degrees. The canyons also are quite deep. Those measured are 790 to 1,870 feet (240 to 570 meters) from top to bottom.”

In the same statement, NASA shows that the agent that caused the canyons to appear remains unknown:

“The presence of such deep cuts in the landscape indicates that whatever process created them was active for a long time or eroded down much faster than other areas on Titan’s surface. The researchers’ proposed scenarios include uplift of the terrain and changes in sea level, or perhaps both.”

Valerio Poggiali (University of Rome) is the lead author of the study. He thinks that only by studying the evolution of Titan more will they be able to come up with a clarifying answer about the way the canyons appeared.

Canyons are geological structures which are also to be found on Earth. Alex Hayes (Cornell University, Ithaca, New York), who is one of the team members and contributed to the study, draws a parallel between the Earthly structure and the Titanian one:

“Earth is warm and rocky, with rivers of water, while Titan is cold and icy, with rivers of methane. And yet it’s remarkable that we find such similar features on both worlds.”

A new article with more details on the subject was published on August 9 in Geophysical Research Letters.

Image courtesy of: Wikipedia

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