New models suggest Titan lakes are explosion craters

  • Most existing models that lay out the origin of Titan's lakes show liquid methane dissolving the moon's bedrock of ice and solid organic compounds, carving reservoirs that fill with the liquid.
  • The new, alternative models for some of the smaller lakes (tens of miles across) turns that theory upside down: It proposes pockets of liquid nitrogen in Titan's crust warmed, turning into explosive gas that blew out craters, which then filled with liquid methane.
  • The new theory explains why some of the smaller lakes near Titan's north pole, like Winnipeg Lacus, appear in radar imaging to have very steep rims that tower above sea level—rims difficult to explain with the karstic model.
  • In the colder periods, nitrogen dominated the atmosphere, raining down and cycling through the icy crust to collect in pools just below the surface, said Cassini scientist and study co-author Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

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