Space & Astronomy
Mystery of Titan's sand dunes solved
By T.K. Randall
December 10, 2014 · 7 comments
Titan shares many similarities with our own planet. Image Credit: NASA / JPL
Scientists have determined how huge sand dunes up to 300ft high managed to form on the Saturnian moon.
While the windswept dunes of Titan might seem remarkably like those we see on Earth, their origins are anything but familiar.
Scientists had long puzzled over how such huge dunes could have been formed in the opposite direction to the moon's prevailing east-to-west winds. Unlike on our own planet, these dunes are believed to be made from a strange viscous sand-like material made of hydrogen and carbon.
Former SETI Institute planetary scientist Devon Burr and his team used a special wind tunnel, one originally created to study the winds on Venus, to recreate the conditions found on Titan's surface.
What they found was that rather than building up continuously over time like the sand dunes on Earth, the dunes on Titan were produced by short, rapid bursts of strong wind.
A separate study also found that some of the largest dunes on Titan may have taken up to 3,000 Saturn years to form, the equivalent to 90,000 years here on Earth.
"This is somewhat similar to how some of Earth's sandy deserts have evolved," said geophysicist Ryan Ewing. "In parts of the Sahara Desert, for example, some of the largest dunes are thought to have formed around 25,000 years ago and these dune patterns are still visible."
Source: Fox News
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