Titan, Saturn''s moon, has a surprisingly similar appearance to Earth.
Although these are composed of liquid methane rather than water, it has rivers, lakes, seas, and rainstorms.
A recent research from Stanford University uncovers the enigmatic mysteries of the Moon.
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 thought to be composed of solid organic compounds, which are more fragile than the silicate-based sediments found on Earth. That means they shouldn''t be able to form such diverse structures on the Moon''s surface.
In order to better understand how Titan''s surface is so similar to Earth, the Stanford team studied a type of calcium carbonate sediment called the ooids. They tested them for wind, seasonal change, and aspiration of forming a solid mass of material through heat and pressure without forming that material melting.
"We hypothesized that sintering that involves neighboring grains fusing together into one piece might counterbalance aggression when winds transport the grains," according to Standord.
Ooids are generally discovered on Earth in tropical waters where they are formed in fine grains. They maintain a consistent thickness due to the fact that they produce chemical precipitation at the same time as eroding in the sea. The Stanford researchers believe Titan might be involved in a similar process.
Cassini data gives a new insight into Titan''s Earth resemblance.
The scientists who published their findings in Geophysical Research Letters analysed Titan''s data during the Cassini mission, and found that winds were more common around the moon''s equator.
This gave the foundations for the formation of dunes. On other parts of Titan, lower winds allowed sedimentary rock to form, which would then be eroded into finer sediments.
Titan''s seasonal liquid transport cycle is a key issue," says Lapotre. Just as on Titan as on Earth, and what used to be on Mars, we have an active sedimentary cycle that can be explained by Titan''s seasons as a result of episodic abrasion and sintering."
"It''s really fascinating to look at how there''s this alternative world out there, where things are so different, yet so similar."