October 24, 2013 5:11 pm
Updated: October 24, 2013 5:26 pm

Saturn’s moon Titan not only has lakes, may also have ‘salt flats’

NASA's Cassini spacecraft collected data to create this false-colour mosaic detailing the differences in surface materials on Titan.


TORONTO – Titan, the largest moon around Saturn, not only has lakes, but may also have salt flats, new data has found.

Cassini, the NASA spacecraft that has been in orbit around the ringed planet since 2004, collected infrared images of the moon and then mapped them to the visible-colour spectrum.

Scientists believe that the areas in orange are something called “evaporite,” what would be the equivalent of a salt flat here on Earth.

Read more: Saturn’s Cassini mission continues to provide stunning images

The evaporite – material that has been evaporated – is thought to be organic chemicals from Titan’s haze particles that dissolved in liquid methane.

The lakes Titan has aren’t very conducive to humans: instead of water, they are made of liquid ethane and methane. The moon is the only other known body in our solar system that has stable liquid on its surface.

Purple haze surrounds Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Story continues below

After NASA’s spacecraft, Voyager 1, made a close flyby of Titan in 1980, scientists have been curious to discover more about the moon that is shrouded in haze.

Though Cassini’s original mission was only to last until 2008, NASA has extended its mission twice.

A joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), created the Cassini-Huygens mission. While Cassini’s mission was to orbit the Saturnian system, Huygens’s was to head to Titan. On January 14, 2005, the Huygens probe descended through the moon’s atmosphere. It landed, surviving for about 90 minutes. It transmitted valuable data and imagery, before succumbing to the moon’s elements.

Watch: ESA animation of Huygens landing with real data

© 2013 Shaw Media

Report an error


Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.