Titan, the moon of Saturn, has some unusual similarities to Earth.
Although these are composed of liquid methane rather than water, it has rivers, lakes, seas, and rainstorms.
A new study from Stanford University uncovers the Moon''s enigmatic mysteries, according to a press release.
An Earth-like moon
Scientists haven''t been able to explain how these Earth-like landscapes, including sand dunes made of hydrocarbons formed on Titan''s surface. The Moon''s sediments are considered to be composed of solid organic compounds, which are more fragile than those found on Earth. This means they should not be able to form such varied structures on the Moon''s surface.
The Stanford researchers studied a form of calcium carbonate sediment called the ooids, which are found on Earth, in an attempt to better understand how Titan''s surface is so similar to Earth. They found that it is likely to wind, seasonal change, and interfering the processof forming a solid mass of material through heat and pressure without that material melting.
"We hypothesized that sintering that involves neighboring grains fusing together into one piece might counterbalance abrasion when winds transport the grains," says Standord''s study.
Ooids are usually found on Earth in tropical waters where they are formed in fine grains. They maintain a constant size because to the fact that they absorb chemical precipitation at the same time as eroding in the sea. The Stanford researchers believe Titan may be involved in a similar process.
Cassini''s data offers insight into Titan''s Earth resemblance.
The scientists who published their findings in Geophysical Research Letters also analysed Titan data during the Cassini mission, and they found that winds were more common around the moon''s equator.
Difficult winds allowed sedimentary rock to form, which would then be eroded into finer sediments.
Titan''s seasonal liquid transport cycle is a key component, according to experts. "We''re also showing that on Titan, we just like on Earth, and what used to be on Mars, we have a large sedimentary cycle that can, in turn, explain the latitudinal distribution of landscapes through episodic abrasion and sintering," Lapotre said.
"It''s quite interesting to think about how there''s this alternative world so far out there, where things are so different, yet so similar."