'Magic island' mystery on Saturn moon cracked

Scientists say that icebergs, waves and gas bubbling up from the sea bed are all possibilities on Saturn's moon Titan.

'Magic island' mystery on Saturn moon cracked

World Bulletin / News Desk

Scientists have outlined their best explanations for a mysterious feature dubbed the "magic island", which has been spotted on Saturn's moon Titan.

The Cassini spacecraft captured the "island" during a flybyin seen in Ligeia Mare, one of the seas of methane and ethane found at Titan's north pole, but it had vanished by the time of the next pass.

Scientists say that icebergs, waves and gas bubbling up from the sea bed are all possibilities.

Saturn's largest moon has a lot in common with Earth, such as it's substantial atmosphere and it's seasonal cycle. Wind and rain shape the surface to form river channels, seas, dunes and shorelines.

Titan's mountains and dune fields are made of ice, where rock, sand, and liquid hydrocarbons take many of the roles played by water on Earth.

The seas and lakes peppering the moon's north polar region are filled with methane and ethane. These are gases on Earth, but at typical Titan temperatures of -180C, they exist in a liquid state.

"'Magic island' is a colloquial term that we use within the team to refer to this. But we don't actually think it's an island," co-author Jason Hofgartner told BBC News.

The feature appears and disappears too quickly to be a volcanic islet. So the team were left with a handful of potential explanations.

Mr Hofgartner, who is based at Cornell University in New York, explained: "We have four different hypotheses that are all equally preferred. In no particular order they are: waves, rising bubbles, floating solids and suspended solids."

 

Last Mod: 23 Haziran 2014, 13:02
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