Titan is Saturn’s largest moon, and is so large that its dimensions exceed those of Mercury (which has a greater mass). It is a rocky body and is the only moon in the solar system that has an atmosphere. These conditions allow meteorological phenomena somewhat similar to those on Earth to occur.
It rains on Titan and there are lakes, rivers, and seas. However, the problem is that it is mainly composed of methane. There are winds and seasons on Titan, and then there is another formation that has attracted much of scientists’ curiosity: sand dunes.
“The sediments on Saturn’s moon are thought to be largely composed of mechanically weak organic grains, and are susceptible to rapid dust erosion,” a team of researchers led by Stanford University planetary geologist Mathieu Laputre explains in a new study.
“As the wind carries the grains, the grains collide with each other and with the surface,” says Laputre. “These collisions tend to decrease in grain size over time.”
However, these structures are huge and have stood on the satellite for hundreds of thousands of years. How is that possible?
“On Titan, just as on Earth and as it did on Mars, we have an active sedimentary cycle that can explain the landscape’s latitudinal distribution through episodic erosion and Titan’s season-driven sintering,” Laputre says.
“It’s great to think about how this alternate world exists so far, where things are very different, but very similar.”
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