On the one hand, Titan is an object covered with rivers and lakes, which may evoke associations with the Earth. On the other hand, however, when we take into account the fact that they are filled with liquid methane, the perspective changes a bit. Recently, however, new facts have come to light.
The authors of the model described in Geophysical Research Letters are responsible for them. Simulations with it demonstrated how Titan's seasonal fluid transport cycle drives grain movement along its surface. More specifically, by identifying the process responsible for the formation of sand grains from hydrocarbon-based substances according to the frequency of winds and the flow of streams, scientists were able to pinpoint how dunes, plains and other structures are formed on Titan.
"Our model creates a unified framework that allows us to understand how all these sedimentation environments work together. If we understand how the pieces of the puzzle fit together and what their mechanics are, we can begin to use the landforms left by these sedimentation processes. to learn about Titan's climate or geological history and how it might affect Titan's life prospects. " explains Mathieu Lapôtre of Stanford University
Titan is the only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere. It is one of the elements responsible for the occurrence of earth-like weather phenomena there. Of course, there are also differences in many respects: while on Earth, dunes are composed of inorganic silicates, on Saturn's moon they are mainly composed of mechanically weak organic grains, prone to rapid attrition to dust.
One of the fundamental problems that stood in the way of research success was the circumstance in which basic organic compounds could turn into grains that form distinct structures, rather than just rubbing and blowing away as dust. In the case of our planet, the silicate rocks and minerals on the Earth's surface transform over time into sediment grains carried by winds and streams, which will eventually turn into rocks.
Then they are eroded again and the whole process is repeated many times.
Simulation results and data collected during the Cassini mission suggest that Titan winds are frequent close to the equator. This is where fine grains of sand can form, which are a key component of the dunes. According to the authors, there is also a slowdown in sediment transport at mid-latitudes on both sides of the equator, where coarser grains are formed that will eventually form the bedrock of the Titan plains. The key conclusion from the study is that Titan as well as Earth and Mars has an active sedimentation cycle that may explain the latitudinal distribution of formations related to the seasons of the year on the moon's surface. So this one is radically different from Earth in some respects, and surprisingly similar in other respects.