Science News reports on the new information received from the retired Cassini space probe detailing the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan. With this data, scientists have constructed the most complete map of the moon to date.
Among these discoveries, one of the most important is the revelation that many of Titan’s seas and lakes of liquid ethane and methane are actually interconnected through underground and above ground drainage systems, passing the liquids between different sources across the surface of the moon. It also revealed that “groundwater” within the porous surface rocks exists, as well as a true sea level due to the relatively uniform altitude of its three largest seas, Ligeia Mare, Kraken Mare, and Punga Mare.
Additionally, through observation of the moon’s structure, its shape was revealed to be more squashed than previously thought, not actually a true sphere as many assumed. Mountains were also discovered in the southern hemisphere, further filling out the terrain.
It was also discovered that, around the northern and southern poles of the moon, several small lakes above sea level also exist. This would indicate that, unlike elsewhere on the planet, these lakes are likely not connected to other bodies of water like the seas. While their true origin remains unknown, some speculate they may actually be sinkholes, indicates by the steep walls, flat bottoms, and the fact several of the lakes are completely empty. This does not, however, explain their extremely uniform shape or the raised lips higher than the surrounding ground.
Using this data, scientists will be able to make many more calculations and inferences about the nature of Titan, from its atmosphere, to its interior makeup, and much more. According to planetary scientist Paul Corlies of Cornell University whose team released the map to the public, dozens of other researchers from across the globe have already contacted them to learn more about the collected data.