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Titan 'disappearing islands' mystery solved

Posted on Wednesday, 19 April, 2017 | Comment icon 9 comments

Images were taken over a period of several years. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell
Researchers in France have determined why entire islands have been vanishing from the surface of Titan.
The mystery surrounding Titan's 'magic islands' began in 2013 when photographs taken of its second-largest sea Ligeia Mare by NASA's Cassini spacecraft seemed to show entire islands appearing out of nowhere and then vanishing again a short time later without explanation.

Unlike the oceans here on Earth, the seas of Titan, being composed of liquid hydrocarbons, are believed to be extremely calm with very little movement. To have a whole island appear and disappear within such a short time frame suggested that something else had to be going on.

Now according to researchers from the University of Reims in France, large bubbles of nitrogen, ethane and methane that fizz up from the ocean's depths are likely to be responsible.

The 'magic islands' on the Cassini images, far from being actual landmasses, are simply areas of bubbling liquid that fizz up out of nowhere and disappear again just as quickly.

"Recent observations by Cassini's Radio Detection and Ranging (RADAR) instrument of Titan's large sea, called Ligeia Mare, have shown unexplained and ephemeral bright features, possibly due to rising bubbles," the researchers wrote.

"Here we report that our numerical model, when combined with experimental data found in the literature, shows that Ligeia Mare's bed is a favourable place for nitrogen exsolution."

Source: | Comments (9)

Tags: Titan, Island

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Zamor on 19 April, 2017, 11:07
Well, I think the shape of the "Island" is way to similar over the years to believe their explanation without further evidence, sounds just like speculations to me!   Zam  
Comment icon #2 Posted by Noxasa on 19 April, 2017, 12:02
Probably due to global warming.
Comment icon #3 Posted by paperdyer on 19 April, 2017, 16:24
And humans can't be blamed as we aren't there, right? Seriously if a gas bubble make an island disappear,  wouldn't the island  have been resting on the bubble(s) in the first place?
Comment icon #4 Posted by Calibeliever on 19 April, 2017, 18:47
Exsolution. Great word!
Comment icon #5 Posted by Parsec on 19 April, 2017, 19:21
Well, if you want to play like that, actually according to the second law of thermodynamics, yes it is.   
Comment icon #6 Posted by Parsec on 19 April, 2017, 21:19
As far as I understand, they are not islands, they only look like ones from satellite images up above.  Apparently they are just a lot of bubbles on the surface, reflecting the light in a manner resembling a solid surface. 
Comment icon #7 Posted by qxcontinuum on 20 April, 2017, 3:49
suppositions and speculations again ... no scientific evidence. Do not believe ...
Comment icon #8 Posted by Calibeliever on 20 April, 2017, 13:11
Comment icon #9 Posted by bison on 21 April, 2017, 0:30
Maybe those 'islands' are something analogous to our algal blooms, which can come and go in relatively short periods of time. 

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