In a far Corner of our Solar System, the Cassini Probe Discovers Ice Volcanoes
by Lucy Ji, age 14
Molten lava, volcanic rock and just volcanoes themselves are considered among Earth’s natural wonders. But a new discovery half way across our solar indicated a different kind of volcano exists on a giant moon called Titan.
Scientists believe they have spotted ice volcanoes on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Instead of bubbling with scorching hot lava, Titan’s volcanoes are likely filled with ice and hydrocarbons. A team of scientists discovered the ice volcanoes using 3-D mapping to explore and learn about Titan’s geological features.
This isn’t the first time researchers have suspected that ice volcanoes are active on Titan. In 2005, the Cassini space probe orbited Saturn’s moons and rings. It spotted and studied what appeared to be an ice volcano. Unfortunately, it was not.
But now the use of 3-D imagines is allowing scientists to map Titan’s surface more completely and time, the evidence of the ice volcanoes on Titan is much stronger. “We finally have some proof that Titan is an active world,” says Randolph Kirk, a geophysicist of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Cassini’s study of Saturn is an important mission for NASA. Titan is one of only a few bodies in the solar system with a thick atmosphere made of nitrogen and methane. The source of methane is a mystery. The existence of volcanoes my help explain how Titan got its smoggy atmosphere.
[Source: The Associated Press; www.nasa.com]