Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
  Saturn News  




Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















SATURN DAILY
The electric sands of Titan
by Staff Writers
Atlanta GA (SPX) Mar 29, 2017


This composite image shows an infrared view of Saturn's moon Titan from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, acquired during the mission's "T-114" flyby on Nov. 13, 2015. Image courtesy NASA/JPL.

Experiments led by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology suggest the particles that cover the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, are "electrically charged." When the wind blows hard enough (approximately 15 mph), Titan's non-silicate granules get kicked up and start to hop in a motion referred to as saltation.

As they collide, they become frictionally charged, like a balloon rubbing against your hair, and clump together in a way not observed for sand dune grains on Earth - they become resistant to further motion. They maintain that charge for days or months at a time and attach to other hydrocarbon substances, much like packing peanuts used in shipping boxes here on Earth.

"If you grabbed piles of grains and built a sand castle on Titan, it would perhaps stay together for weeks due to their electrostatic properties," said Josef Dufek, the Georgia Tech professor who co-led the study. "Any spacecraft that lands in regions of granular material on Titan is going to have a tough time staying clean. Think of putting a cat in a box of packing peanuts."

The electrification findings may help explain an odd phenomenon. Prevailing winds on Titan blow from east to west across the moon's surface, but sandy dunes nearly 300 feet tall seem to form in the opposite direction.

"These electrostatic forces increase frictional thresholds," said Josh Mendez Harper, a Georgia Tech geophysics and electrical engineering doctoral student who is the paper's lead author. "This makes the grains so sticky and cohesive that only heavy winds can move them. The prevailing winds aren't strong enough to shape the dunes."

To test particle flow under Titan-like conditions, the researchers built a small experiment in a modified pressure vessel in their Georgia Tech lab. They inserted grains of naphthalene and biphenyl - two toxic, carbon and hydrogen bearing compounds believed to exist on Titan's surface - into a small cylinder.

Then they rotated the tube for 20 minutes in a dry, pure nitrogen environment (Titan's atmosphere is composed of 98 percent nitrogen). Afterwards, they measured the electric properties of each grain as it tumbled out of the tube.

"All of the particles charged well, and about 2 to 5 percent didn't come out of the tumbler," said Mendez Harper. "They clung to the inside and stuck together. When we did the same experiment with sand and volcanic ash using Earth-like conditions, all of it came out. Nothing stuck."

Earth sand does pick up electrical charge when it's moved, but the charges are smaller and dissipate quickly. That's one reason why you need water to keep sand together when building a sand castle. Not so with Titan.

"These non-silicate, granular materials can hold their electrostatic charges for days, weeks or months at a time under low-gravity conditions," said George McDonald, a graduate student in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences who also co-authored the paper.

Visually, Titan is the object in the solar system most like Earth. Data gathered from multiple flybys by Cassini since 2005 have revealed large liquid lakes at the poles, as well as mountains, rivers and potentially volcanoes.

However, instead of water-filled oceans and seas, they're composed of methane and ethane and are replenished by precipitation from hydrocarbon-filled clouds. Titan's surface pressure is a bit higher than our planet - standing on the moon would feel similar to standing 15 feet underwater here on Earth.

"Titan's extreme physical environment requires scientists to think differently about what we've learned of Earth's granular dynamics," said Dufek. "Landforms are influenced by forces that aren't intuitive to us because those forces aren't so important on Earth. Titan is a strange, electrostatically sticky world."

The findings have just been published in the journal Nature Geoscience. Researchers from the Jet Propulsion Lab, University of Tennessee-Knoxville and Cornell University also co-authored the paper, which is titled "Electrification of Sand on Titan and its Influence on Sediment Transport."

SATURN DAILY
Titan is covered by electrically charged sand grains, experiments suggest
Washington (UPI) Mar 27, 2017
New research suggests the sand grains on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, behave similar to the packing peanuts used in shipping boxes. Lab experiments suggest the granules become electrically charged and clump together, resisting motion as they attach themselves to other hydrocarbons. The sand grains become charged as they're excited by strong winds and hop along the surface - a p ... read more

Related Links
Georgia Institute of Technology
Explore The Ring World of Saturn and her moons
Jupiter and its Moons
The million outer planets of a star called Sol
News Flash at Mercury

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

SATURN DAILY
New MAVEN findings reveal how Mars' atmosphere was lost to space

Potential Mars Airplane Resumes Flight

Prolific Mars Orbiter Completes 50,000 Orbits

Final two ExoMars landing sites chosen

SATURN DAILY
How a young-looking lunar volcano hides its true age

Surviving the long dark night of the Moon

Team Indus To Send Seven Experiments To The Moon Including Three From India

Sun Devils working for a chance to induce photosynthesis on our lunar neighbor

SATURN DAILY
Checking in on Bleriot

The electric sands of Titan

Titan is covered by electrically charged sand grains, experiments suggest

Cassini Sees Heat Below the Icy Surface of Enceladus

SATURN DAILY
Yuanwang fleet to carry out 19 space tracking tasks in 2017

China Develops Spaceship Capable of Moon Landing

Long March-7 Y2 ready for launch of China's first cargo spacecraft

China Seeks Space Rockets Launched from Airplanes

SATURN DAILY
ANU leads public search for Planet X

Juno Spacecraft Set for Fifth Jupiter Flyby

Scientists make the case to restore Pluto's planet status

ESA's Jupiter mission moves off the drawing board

SATURN DAILY
Inventing Tools for Detecting Life Elsewhere with Future Telescopes

Sun's UV Light Helped Spark Life

Astronomers identify purest, most massive brown dwarf

Fledgling stars try to prevent their neighbors from birthing planets

SATURN DAILY
SATURN DAILY
Satellites reveal bird habitat loss in California

Humans likely influence giant airstreams

Night lights, big data

Extreme weather events linked to climate change impact on the jet stream




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement