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Scientists Reveal Giant, unexpected corridor of ice on Saturn's largest moon


Titanium with & # 39 is a mystery, as powerful as its namesake. Thick fog atmospheric nitrogen hides the surface of the Moon with the view hides the huge and ancient geological oddity that researchers just opened.

In the new study, researchers report the discovery of a massive "corridor" ice-rich bedrock spanning nearly halfway around the largest of Saturn's moon, which stretches on an epic 6,300 km (3,900 miles) in total – in length, equivalent to 40 percent of Titan in the whole circumference .

"This ice corridor confused, because it does not correlate with any surface features, or measurements of the geological environment," says planetary scientist Caitlin Griffith of the University of Arizona.

Griffith and her team pored through thousands of spectral images obtained by the Cassini space probe, using an infrared spectrometer instrument to peer, as far as possible through the opaque haze of Titan.

010 titanium ice corridor 1Ice corridor, is displayed in blue. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute)

Using a technique called principal component analysis (PC) and scratch refinement surfaces obscuring features in the data, the command defined giant ice strangeness straddling equator Titan.

"Our research indicates that the PCA water ice unevenly, but not accidentally, exposed throughout the tropical surface of Titan," the authors write in their article.

"Most of the open ice-rich material to be long, almost linear, corridor extending from about 6.300 km (30 ° E, 15 ° N) to (110 ° W, 15 ° C)."

What is most surprising about this feature to & # 39 is that it exists at all, since the surface of Titan is believed largely covered by an organic sludge that rains down from the decay of methane molecules in the atmosphere due to sunlight.

In the midst of this wonderful, wet and aerated environment that Griffith described as "abnormal version of the Earth", it is not clear how open ice structure fits, so the team thinks it may be a relic of another era, frozen in time,

"It is possible that we will see that it is a relic of the time when Titan was completely different," said Griffith New Scientist.

"It can not be explained by the fact that we see there now."

According to researchers, the most likely reason could be the legacy of the ancient cryovolcanism "ice volcanoes", which produce water, ammonia and methane, in the place of the rock magma we know on Earth.

But because Titan is currently thought that there are any active ice volcanoes remains little mystery as to why this giant ice hall still stands – although such a situation can not last much longer, depending on how hard Moon methane rain continues to fall.

"We find this function on the steep slopes, but not on all the slopes," says Griffith.

"This suggests that the ice corridor currently blurs, potentially revealing the presence of ice and organic layers."

The results are presented in nature Astronomy.

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