A new research coming from University College London looks deeper into how Saturn’s moon, Titan resembles Earth more than any other planet in our solar system.
Titan is known to be the host of Earth-like features: seas, rivers and rainfall are a few of the phenomenons pinpointing the similarity.
Now, drawing upon data received from NASA’s Cassini Orbiter, the researchers at University College London observed that polar winds similar to Earth’s are swiping Saturn’s moon.
Orbiting Saturn, Titan is one of the very few bodies that resemble Earth. Albeit a frozen version of our home planet set back in a time before oxygen was pumped into the Earth’s atmosphere with the emergence of life.
Thus, Titan’s atmosphere is mainly comprised nitrogen and methane, extending 370 miles from Saturn’s moon. Every now and then, there is a factor that changes Titan’s atmosphere. The new study comes to show that polar winds are the driving force behind this phenomenon.
Compared to Earth where polar winds are responsible from pulling the gases from our atmosphere further into space, thus causing them to interact with Earth’s magnetic field, on Titan the gases swept from the atmosphere interact with Saturn’s stronger magnetic field.
Dr. Andrew Coats coming from University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, explained:
“Titan’s atmosphere is made up mainly of nitrogen and methane, with 50 percent higher pressure at its surface than on Earth”.
Daily, Titan’s atmosphere is drained of approximately seven tons of hydrocarbons as well as nitriles. Polar winds are responsible for this loss. The data was gathered from Cassini Orbiter’s Plasma Spectrometer or CAPS.
During Cassini’s 23 flybys near Titan, CAPS recorded the interaction between the molecules in Titan’s upper atmosphere, the magnetic field of Saturn and the Sun, as well the sunlight.
Compared to Earth, Titan’s distance from the Sun is ten times that of the Earth-Sun. Nonetheless, the upper atmosphere of Saturn’s moon is bathed in sunlight.
Thus, when the sunlight interacts with the molecules in the ionosphere, it repels the negatively charged electrons from the nitrile and hydrocarbon molecules. This means the ionosphere is left with the positively charged particles.
The CAPS provided data was recorded from 12,000 miles distance from Titan. But the phenomenon is easily traceable and this particular type of electrons are easy to set apart from others with their mark, a tail like that of a comet, formed around the rotating field of Saturn.
The University College London research was published in the Geophysical Research Letters.
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