Cassini spacecraft Current Affairs - 2020

Saturn Moon Titan: Drifting faster than before

The moon of Saturn, Titan is drifting away faster than before. This has been identified by the researchers in NASA and also scientists in Italian Space Agency.

Highlights

According to the data received from the Cassini Spacecraft of NASA, scientists believed that the Titan has been moving away from its host planet Saturn. However, the recent studies say that the moon is drifting 100 times faster. This is about 4 inches every year.

Science of drifting moons

The moons begin drifting away from their host planets because as the moons orbit, their gravitational pull on the planet creates temporary bulge in the planet. This bulge in turn increases the energy exerted by the planet on its moon. It also transfers the subsiding and bulging energy to its moon.

The earth’s own moon drifts 1.5 inches from the Earth every year.

There are around 82 moons that are orbiting Saturn.

Cassini

The Cassini Space Craft Mission, or the Cassini-Huygens Mission is a joint space mission of NASA. Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. The mission was launched to study saturn, its moons, and rings.

Liquid methane spotted on Titan moon of Saturn

Using data obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, scientists have found that Saturn’s largest moon Titan has small liquid lakes that run more than 100 metres deep, perched atop hills and filled with methane.

What are the Findings?

The findings published in the journal titled Nature Astronomy make the following observations:

  • Titan has landforms akin to Mesas towering above the nearby landscape, topped with liquid lakes more than 300 feet deep comprised mainly of methane.
  • Scientists suspect the lakes were formed when surrounding bedrock chemically dissolved and collapsed a process which occurs with a certain type of lake on Earth.
  • The scientists also observed “phantom lakes” on Titan that during wintertime appeared to be wide but shallow ponds but perhaps were only a few inches deep and evaporated or drained into the surface by springtime, a process taking seven years on Titan.
  • The findings also presented evidence about Titan’s hydrological cycle, with liquid hydrocarbons raining down from clouds, flowing across its surface and evaporating back into the sky which is comparable to Earth’s water cycle.
  • Scientists suspect Titan could potentially could harbour life possibly in the surface bodies of liquid hydrocarbons because of Titan’s complex chemistry and distinctive environments.

Titan which is the moon of Saturn has a diameter of 5,150 km and is the solar system’s second largest moon, behind only Jupiter’s Ganymede. It is bigger than the planet Mercury.

Titan is the most Earth-like body in the solar system. It has lakes, canyons, rivers, dune fields of organic sand particles about the same size as silica sand grains on Earth.