Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
  Saturn News  




Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















Unveiling The Mountains Of Titan

File image of mountains.
by Staff Writers
Salt Lake City UT (SPX) Jan 02, 2008
By analyzing images from NASA's Cassini Radar instrument, a Brigham Young University professor helped discover and analyze mountains on Saturn's largest moon, additional evidence that it has some of the most earthlike processes of any celestial body in the solar system.

Planetary scientist Jani Radebaugh is lead author of the discovery paper in the December issue of the astronomy journal Icarus. The images retrieved by the Cassini Radar are the first images showing the details of Titan's surface - previous spacecraft and telescopes could not pierce the haze and clouds surrounding the moon to the surface.

The discovery of mountains on Titan grew out of Radebaugh's collaboration with a research team that recently found sand dunes and methane lakes on Titan. Radebaugh was a coauthor on the Science magazine study that introduced Titan's sand dunes in May 2006 as well as the Nature study that introduced Titan's methane lakes in January 2007.

"Since this is the first time humans have been able to see through the haze to Titan's surface, it was shocking to find these mountains, channels, dunes, and cryo-lava flows," Radebaugh said. "We had to wait until we got all the way to Titan to see these landforms that are so similar to Earth."

Upon receiving the images from NASA, Radebaugh, in collaboration with the Cassini Radar Team, discovered the mountains and began analyzing their characteristics. With no instrument to precisely measure the mountains' height, Radebaugh looked at the light and shadows in the radar images to calculate the mountains' slope and then derive their height.

According to the study, Titan's mountains are most likely made of water ice and are relatively small in height, at most 2 km (1.25 mi) from base to peak. That's about half as tall as Mount Timpanogos near BYU's campus.

The consistently short height of Titan's mountains provides evidence that they have been subject to similar amounts of erosion, that they are roughly the same age or that the materials are behaving in a way that prevents them from growing taller.

"Dr. Radebaugh's work represents an important advance in our understanding of that icy moon and the Earth," said Dr. Jason Barnes, a research scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center. "Her discovery tells us about the mountain-building process in general and about Titan's crust in particular."

Prior to Cassini, scientists assumed that most of the topography on Titan would be impact structures, yet these new findings reveal that similar to Earth, the mountains were formed through geological processes on the moon.

Radebaugh proposes four possible explanations for the formation of the mountains on Titan. The first possibility is that the mountains were thrust up from crustal compression, horizontal forces smashing the crust together and upward.

Alternatively, Titan's mountains may have formed through spreading or separation of the crust, in the same way that Utah's Wasatch Mountains separated from the Oquirrh Mountains to the west.

It's also possible some of the mountains have been created by impact craters that threw out blocks of material, or that erosion stripped away a preexisting layer of material and left high-standing features like the mountains.

"The hard work of collecting simple facts is the key to understanding strange new worlds, and from these facts, Jani has discovered a whole new type of feature," said Richard Ghail, a planetary scientist for JMP Consulting, UK.

Since the processes on Titan are so similar to Earth's, Radebaugh also concluded in the study that Titan may be an interesting laboratory for studying Earth. Like Earth, Titan possesses the primary ingredients for life, namely energy, water and organics. Information from Titan will help scientists better understand the Earth's origin, formative processes and development of life.

"We still don't understand exactly how life began on Earth, so if we can understand how the fundamentals of these processes may be starting in some laboratory like Titan, it will help us understand the Earth a lot better," Radebaugh said.

In addition to analyzing images from space, Radebaugh also looks on planet earth for clues about the geology of other planets, moons and objects in the solar system. Two years ago Radebaugh scoured Antarctica for meteorites with the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program.

Through field work at Hawaiian volcanoes, she has also worked with students to utilize a technique for using a camcorder to measure eruption temperatures in the hope of learning more about volcanoes on Io, a moon of Jupiter.

Radebaugh, an assistant professorof geology, received her undergraduate in physics and astronomy and a master's degree in geology at BYU. In 2005, she received her Ph.D. in planetary science from the University of Arizona.

Related Links
Brigham Young University
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



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


Hot Spot On Enceladus Causes Plumes
San Francisco CA (SPX) Dec 18, 2007
Enceladus, the tiny satellite of Saturn, is colder than ice, but data gathered by the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan has detected a hot spot that could mean there is life in the old moon after all. In fact, for researchers of the outer planets, Enceladus is so intellectually hot, it's smokin'.







  • The PI's Perspective: Autumn 2007: Onward to the Kuiper Belt
  • Data For The Next Generations
  • Goddard Instrument Makes Cover Of Science
  • Checking Out New Horizons

  • Mars Rovers Find Evidence Of Habitable Niche As Perilous Third Winter Approaches
  • Global Map Reveals Mineral Distribution On Mars
  • How Mars Could Have Been Warm And Wet But Limestone-Free
  • Catalina Sky Survey Rocks Mars With New Asteroid Discovery

  • The Restless Atmosphere Of Venus
  • The Unexpected Temperature Profile Of Venus's Atmosphere
  • The Venusian Climate And Its Evolution
  • Earth-like Venus

  • Messenger Zeros In On Mercury
  • Messenger Exits Longest Solar Conjunction Period of Mission
  • MESSENGER Completes Fifty Percent Of Cruise Phase
  • Critical Deep-Space Maneuver Targets MESSENGER For Its First Mercury Encounter

  • Return To Europa: A Closer Look Is Possible
  • Rethinking Jupiter
  • Jovian Magnetosphere Circulates Magnetic Field Very Differently From Earth
  • New Horizons' SWAP instrument Reveals Complex Structure, Diverse Plasma Populations In Jupiter's Magnetotail

  • Polarization Technique Focuses Limelight On Exo Planet Atmospheres
  • Gliese 581: One Planet Might Indeed Be Habitable
  • Hazy Red Sunset On Extrasolar Planet
  • First Ground-Based Detection Of Extra-Solar Planet Atmsosphere Using Hobby-Eberly Telescope

  • Lockheed Martin Spacecraft To Be Flown For NASA's Grail Lunar Mission
  • Major lunar probe begins full operation: Japan
  • India And Russia Begin Talks On Chandrayaan-II
  • KAGUYA (SELENE) Observations Using The Spectral Profiler

  • Outside View: Arctic satellite balance
  • Lockheed Martin Awarded Contract For GOES-R Geostationary Lightning Mapper
  • Study Shows Urban Sprawl Continues To Gobble Up Land
  • ASU Researchers Use NASA Satellites To Improve Pollution Modeling

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright Space.TV Corporation. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal 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. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space.TV Corp on any Web page published or hosted by Space.TV Corp. Privacy Statement