Saturn Moon Has Seas of Sand

#Science

Sun, May 7th, 2006 15:03 by capnasty NEWS

Titan, Saturn's largest moon, has a dense atmosphere and a remarkable amount of sand and majestically sized dunes unexpected for a planetoid so far from the sun.

When scientists first began using powerful instruments to peer through the dense atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, they found sprawling dark areas -- regions that looked remarkably like oceans.

[...] The dunes are up to 150 meters (500 feet) tall and hundreds of kilometers long, dominating large areas of Titan's surface near the equator.

They are long, linear dunes similar to a type commonly seen in Namibia (see map), the Sahara, parts of Australia, and the Arabian Peninsula.

The discovery was surprising, says Ralph Lorenz, a researcher with the Lunar and Planetary Lab based at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Titan was not expected to have winds strong enough to produce dunes, even in gravity that is only one-seventh that of Earth's.

That's because wind is generally driven by solar heat, and Titan receives only a thousandth as much solar energy as Earth does.

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