Astronomers find more evidence of 'magic island' on Saturn's moon

Evan Bartlett@ev_bartlett
Tuesday 11 November 2014 18:20
Science and Tech
Cassini's radar instrument images show that a bright feature appeared in Kraken Mare, Titan's largest sea

Two mysterious-looking features have been spotted on the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, that astronomers believe could be related to the "magic island" seen briefly earlier this year.

In June, the Cassini satellite saw the brief appearance and then disappearance of the so-called magic island, a feature of about 100 miles across which was thought to be possible evidence of waves on the moon.

The satellite then took images of Titan's largest sea, Kraken Mare (made up of hydrocarbons rather than water), on a fly-by in August, near the mouth of a flooded river valley and analysis of them is said to have uncovered "two new bright features" (one of which can be seen below).

A release by Nasa says: "[the] data suggest the new features might have similarities to places in and around the seas that the Cassini team has interpreted as waves or wet ground."

After ten years there, Titan still can surprise us. Titan has dunes, lakes, seas, even rivers. All this makes Titan an explorer's utopia.

We are likely to see more islands showing up. These lakes and seas are dynamic places.

  • Alexander Hayes, Cornell University

Their measurements also collected height data, and allowed them to calculate the depths of the sea, although they said that some areas were either too deep to be measured, or the infrared signals "might simply have been absorbed by the liquid".

Titan is thought to be the only other planet or moon in the solar system with "stable liquid" on its surface similar to that found on Earth, according to National Geographic.

According to the release, "Cassini will perform this experiment one last time in January 2015" in a bid to measure the depth of one of Titan's smaller seas - Punga Mare.

More: Here's what made Reid Wiseman the internet's new favourite astronaut

More: Astronomers take clearest ever photo of new planets being born