Using data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, scientists have created this beautiful mosaic mapping the northern hemisphere of Saturn’s moon Titan, which is full of rivers, lakes, and seas.
“Titan is a very alien place that looks very Earth-like,” said planetary scientist Stephen Wall, leader of Cassini’s radar team.
While the northern hemisphere is dotted all over with hundreds of tiny lakes, the large seas seem confined to a specific area, mainly on the lower right side of the image above.
Other tectonic processes are probably behind the smaller dotted lakes, though scientists don’t yet know precisely what. Some of the lakes could be infilled calderas of former active volcanoes on Titan (which would spew molten water instead of lava). But there isn’t enough volcanic activity on the moon to account for all of them. Instead, many were probably created when liquid hydrocarbons dissolved the frozen ice.
“This creates a kind of exciting prospect that under the northern pole of Titan is a network of caves,” said Kirk. Caves on Earth are often filled with life, so perhaps Titan’s caves could be as well.