Scientists have collected Titan's first global geological map, one of Saturn's major moons, thanks to data provided by the Huygens spacecraft launched in 1997 with the Cassini mission. In addition to being the only moon in the Solar System with clouds and a dense atmosphere of nitrogen and methane, evidence suggests that Titanium is covered with organic material.
According to a study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, Cassini's infrared and radar data have been able to remove those dense layers of the atmosphere that surround the larger view of the moon. With this information, scientists reconstructed and mapped the surface of Titan, presenting six major geological forms, their age, distribution, and sex details.
Titanium has its own liquid bodies, similar to those on Earth, but rivers, lakes and seas are made of liquid ethane and methane. These compounds form clouds and rain gas from the sky. This cycle of methane is the driving force behind Titan's geology – the poles help the methane stay liquid. Around the equator, a more humid climate makes dune carved dunes untouched.
In other words, we find different geological formations by latitude. But there is one more prominent feature about the entire moon: the presence of organic plains.
Rosalie Lopez, author of the study and senior researcher at NASA's Aircraft Mobility Laboratory, explains that "the strong geographic dependence of different units gives clues as to how the methane cycle works," though she acknowledges that mysteries still exist. "For example, most of the surface is covered with organic materials, especially plains (65%) and dunes (17%). These are formed, we think, of organic materials that fall out of the atmosphere and move out of the wind. So this is us says that the winds were very important in shaping the surface of Titan. "
The discovery that much of Titanium is covered with organic plains was a surprise to researchers. Because, according to Lopez, "people tend to know and study Titan's most interesting resources, such as lakes (which cover only 1.5% of the surface)."
Valuable information on the Dragon Mission
In 2026, NASA will send the Dragon Lamp mission to probe Titan from 2034. The ultimate goal of the spacecraft is to visit impact, where it is believed that the key ingredients for life were mixed when a spacecraft struck a ground in the past. maybe tens of thousands of years ago.
This new moon map can help provide context for everything the Dragon can detect, according to Lopez. "We still have a lot of questions about Titan. For me, the most interesting ones are those about habitats, "said the scientist, who expects many answers about the composition and possible privilege when the Dragon shows data directly from the surface of Titan. For her, "the fact that we have so much organic material on Titan has important implications for life."
Lopez and his team are working on models of the evolution of the Titan landscape to understand how organic material moves through the surface and where and how it is able to penetrate the ice. "Organic products that reach the ocean, most likely the environment, are fundamental to habitats," the researcher concluded.