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Saturn’s Moon ‘Titan’ Evolved More Like Mars Than Earth

First Posted: May 22, 2017 04:19 AM EDT

The origins of topography or surface elevation on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, may have had an evolution more similar to Mars than Earth. Researchers studied the river maps of Titan, the Red Planet and Earth to make the comparisons.

According to a report in Oman Daily Observer, the research team found that Titan has not experienced any active plate tectonics in its recent past just like Mars. Moreover, plate tectonics cause upheaval of mountains that deflects river paths. The scientists found that this particular feature was missing from the river networks of both Titan and Mars.

"While the processes that created the topography of Titan are still enigmatic, this rules out some of the mechanisms we are most familiar with on Earth," study lead author Benjamin Black said, as reported by First Post. Instead, the topography of Saturn’s largest moon is influenced by processes like changes in the thickness of its icy crust, as a result of tides from Saturn.

The research team compiled a map of river networks for Titan, Mars and Earth to conduct the study. The map for Titan was generated with the help of images captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which has been sending back photos of the Saturn system since 2004.

Incidentally, Titan is the only celestial body in the solar system that has actively flowing rivers. Interestingly, they are not fed by water but liquid methane. Associate Professor of Geology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Taylor Perron said that it is astonishing to see that there are three worlds in the solar system where flowing rivers have sculpted into the landscape, either presently or in the past.

“There is this amazing opportunity to use the land forms the rivers have created to learn how the histories of these worlds are different," Perron added.

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