The Cassini space probe recently spotted the tallest known peak on Saturn's strange moon, Titan.
The Cassini space probe has been zooming around the solar system studying the great ringed planet Saturn and its moons since 2004, and the spacecraft continues to send new images and information that leave NASA scientists amazed and bewildered. According to a report from Discovery News, the latest images from Cassini reveal that the mountain peaks on Saturn’s peculiar moon, Titan, are way higher than once thought.
The probe’s radar sliced through the moon’s thick atmosphere to image the stunning geological features on the surface of Titan. Among the findings was the moon’s highest peak. According to Stephen Wall, the lead of the Cassini radar team based out of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, “It’s not only the highest point we’ve found so far on Titan, but we think it’s the highest point we’re likely to find.”
The peak measures 3,337 meters, or almost 11,000 feet above the moon’s surface. The majority of Titan’s mountains are similar in size and are concentrated near the moon’s equator. By contrast, the tallest peak on Earth, Mount Everest, rises a staggering 8,848 meters, or roughly 29,000 feet. While certainly not the tallest peak in the solar system, the mountain on Titan, informally dubbed “Titan Mons,” is quite a find.
The study initially intended to look for regions in the moon’s crust that may be tectonically active. Plate tectonics are one of the main forces driving the formation of mountains here on Earth, and researchers wanted to see if similar processes were occurring on Titan. The findings may lead to a more clear understanding of what lies below the surface of Titan as well. Researchers believe that the moon has an ocean of liquid water below the surface, behaving in a similar manner to the mantle of molten rock below the surface of the Earth.
“There is a lot of value in examining the topography of Titan in a broad, global sense, since it tells us about forces acting on the surface from below as well as above,” said Jani Radebaugh, a Cassini radar team scientist at the leader of the recent study. The finding may offer new clues into the processes that shaped the features on Titan’s surface, and the solar system as a whole.The latest Cassini findings were presented at the 47th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference at the Woodland, TX this Wednesday.
A NASA press release describing the discovery can be found here.