General, Research, Technology

Lakes on Titan may explode unexpectedly

Titan - the largest satellite of Saturn, on whichproved the existence of fluid. The unique cosmic body has a dense atmosphere, which consists mainly of nitrogen, and on the surface of this world far from the Sun, consisting of water ice and sedimentary deposits, there is always a low temperature of -170-180 degrees Celsius. Modern astrophysicists believe that Titan is very similar to the Earth in the early stages of development, which suggests that in the cold reservoirs of this satellite there is a possibility of the existence of simple life forms. However, according to new research, a hypothetical life on Titan may be in constant danger of being destroyed due to the unusual features of local ethane-methane reservoirs.

In some methane lakes, the height of the surrounding rim reaches several hundred meters

What do methane lakes on Titan look like?

Thanks to the latest data obtained fromNASA’s Cassini spacecraft, scientists have a new scenario that explains the appearance of high “rims” around lakes filled with methane. According to some versions, explosions of heated nitrogen can constantly occur on Titan, which created pools of liquid gases in the crust of Saturn’s satellite. In 1995, the Hubble telescope confirmed the theory of the existence of methane in liquid form on the surface of a space satellite.

Titanium is currently the only onesolid body in our solar system, on which, in addition to the Earth, there is a stable liquid on the surface. However, while water plays the role of the main fluid that nourishes all living things, on hydrocarbons hydrocarbons — methane and ethane — play such a role. The predominant majority of the currently existing models that could explain the origin of the Titan lakes prove that liquid methane is able to dissolve bedrocks of ice and solid deposits of organic compounds, forming reservoirs that are filled with liquid. Ponds formed in a similar way on Earth and dissolving the surrounding limestone are commonly called karst lakes.

See also: What could life be like on Titan?

There are also alternative models thatexplain the appearance of some small lakes, completely refuting the basic theory. Thus, a new alternative model assumes the existence of foci of liquid nitrogen in the heated Titanic crust, which can turn into an explosive gas, exploding craters, which are then filled with liquid methane. The latest model is able to fully explain why some small lakes near the North Pole of Titan, such as Winnipeg Lacus, have very steep edges that rise high above sea level. The edges that are clearly visible on radar images are difficult to explain with the theory of the karst model.

Radar images confirmed the morphology of some of the lakes that arose most likely as a result of a powerful explosion

According to radar data was collected using the Cassini Saturn Orbiter, during a mission conducted by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. During his last approach to Titan, when the ship was preparing for its final immersion in the atmosphere of Saturn, the team managed to create images, thanks to which they received new data on the morphological features of the satellite. The expedition made it possible to find out that in addition to the theory of nitrogen explosions, there is at least one more idea of ​​the origin of such high rims around lakes, taking into account seasonal climatic changes on Titan.

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According to scientists, over the past half billion yearsMethane in the atmosphere of Titan acted as a greenhouse gas, which kept the satellite's atmosphere relatively warm. As a result of this phenomenon, the satellite experienced several epochs of cooling and heating, since methane is depleted under the influence of solar energy, and then replenished. In colder periods, nitrogen dominated the atmosphere, falling out in the form of an ice crust, and then collecting in puddles that were below the surface. When warmer periods came, liquid nitrogen turned into steam, gradually destroying the crater and again provoking an explosion on the surface of the satellite.