A mysterious new geographical feature has appeared on Saturn's moon Titan. These two Cassini's radar images show a "mysterious geologic object" surfacing in the Ligeia Mare, Titan's second largest sea. Cornell University's astronomers call it "Magic Island" because they are puzzled by its origin and nature.
According Jason Hofgartner—a Cornell's graduate student and lead author of the paper published on June 22 in the journal Nature Geoscience—"this discovery tells us that the liquids in Titan's northern hemisphere are not simply stagnant and unchanging, but rather that changes do occur. We don't know precisely what caused this 'magic island' to appear, but we'd like to study it further."
The new image sent by Cassini on July 10, 2013, shows a large bright spot appearing in the dark hydrocarbon sea that was never there. The scientists have four theories about what could this be:
- Northern hemisphere winds may be kicking up and forming waves on Ligeia Mare. The radar imaging system might see the waves as a kind of "ghost" island.
- Gases may push out from the sea floor of Ligeia Mare, rising to the surface as bubbles.
- Sunken solids formed by a wintry freeze could become buoyant with the onset of the late Titan spring warmer temperatures.
- Ligeia Mare has suspended solids, which are neither sunken nor floating, but act like silt in a terrestrial delta.
I like to think is some giant monster emerging from the sea, but that's just me. This the time where we need that Titan exploration quadcopter that some engineers at NASA are proposing.
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