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Saturn moon Titan ICE odd thousand miles



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strange moon of Saturn titanium It hides many secrets of its layers and layers of thick haze, but scientists now peering through the fog in a new way – and noticed a massive portion of water ice in addition.

This ice block extends over almost half the girth of Titan. Feature was surprising companion to the inclusions of water ice Scientists expect to find, and they are not from the & # 39 are positive, what sorts of geological features, this may mean. The study is based on data collected NASA's CassiniWho spent 13 years in the study of the Saturn system and has made more than 100 spans a massive month before self-destructing in September 2017.

"This is a good example of how we are doing very well for the continuation of swill these strange Cassini data for new results," said Jani Radebaugh, a planetary scientist at Brigham Young University in Utah, who was not involved in the new study spaces .com. "We are far from complete understanding of Titan to the extent we can with Cassini."

related: Saturn moon Titan may have a "Phantom Lake" and caves

Scientists want to understand Titan, as its features provide a terrible twist on the planet, that we know and love so well. Moon has a thick, rich in nitrogen atmosphere, and the liquid rain down on the surface to fill lakes and seasBut these liquids are organic compounds, falling to the surface, in particular of water ice. It's weird. It is also a struggle to learn, since all these strange things interfere with each other.

"What we wonder is this global gentle snowfall organics, what's happening?" Said Radebaugh. "It can be very difficult to see through this layer to be able to see what happens."

This is where the technique that is used in a new article comes new study uses a statistical approach called principal component analysis, which allows scientists to look past the most dominant features in this -. As the fog – and pick up on much smaller signatures otherwise get missed – like sorbet, In the new study, the researchers used the technique only roll Titan between 30 degrees north and south latitude.

"The idea was to say:" Let's try to get a holistic sense of the distribution of ice on the surface compared to the amount of organic matter on the surface "," lead author Caitlin Griffith, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University, told Space.com. " we need a method of measuring these very, very weak capacity and try to get the information of these functions. "

The main component analysis allowed Griffith and her colleagues are doing just that. "We are looking very fine features are hidden behind a big opportunity," said Griffith. "It works like a charm in fact, so that allowed us to obtain very detailed information about these locations is very weak" – how, where Ice water was visible on the surface.

Titan surface is hard to see through the thick smoke enriched nitrogen atmosphere ice moon.

(Image: © NASA / JPL / University of Arizona)

Some of the areas where the team found water ice that scientists expected – around what they believe large cryovolcanism that once flashed liquid water over the surface and around Titan impact craters, where meteorites dug into the surface of the Moon. But no one expected that a massive belt of water ice – 3,900 miles (6,300 km) – Long, who also was in the same assay.

"There really is nothing that tells us that it must be made of water ice, even in the same way as you look at the landscape," said Radebaugh. "There's nothing that really says it's different from everything else."

Griffith says that she is still not sure that is a massive ice line, which it compares with the scar – it will take more research to squeeze that left the ice revealed on the surface of Titan. "This is a great feature that tells us something about what Titan was in the pastBut we do not know really what it is, "she said." I think that now it is basically telling us that it is difficult, the surface is difficult. "

Radebaugh said that from her point of view outside the team, it seems, this feature may be the result of a massive faulting – cracking – events weighed on site ice-water rock up and left it open. If this is so, then the function can offer a window into the titanium layer, which has not been in the spotlight.

"tectonism Titan in a sense, took a bit of a back seat just because we see all of these surface processes – liquid flow, erosion, wind deposits, and all these kinds of things, "said Radebaugh.» These surface processes, these things with & # 39; They are kind of in your face. "

But just because something is hidden, does not mean that she deserves to stay that way, she added. "We must remember that there is a very interesting ,? Possibly active, lithosphere beneath it, as well. "

The study described in paper released today (April 29) in Nature Astronomical Journal.

Send Meghan Bartels on mbartels@space.com or follow her @meghanbartels, Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and facebook.

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