Feeds

We've cracked riddle of ANTIGRAVITY mountains on Saturn's Titan - boffins

Underground roots of ice fingered after Cassini probe's bizarre readings

Boost IT visibility and business value

Pic An icy shell around Saturn's largest moon Titan is thicker and tougher than boffins previously thought – and it is concealing a bizarre interior with inward-facing spikes.

ESA's Huygens probe image of a mountain on the surface of Titan

A root mountaintop on Titan. Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

NASA's Cassini space probe buzzed the mysterious heavenly body in February to scan its gravity field. Now researchers, who are poring over the collected data, have theorised that the ice surrounding the moon is likely rigid, with frozen roots jutting through the underlying hidden ocean.

Sensor readings from small peaks on the landscape led planetary scientists Douglas Hemingway and Francis Nimmo from the University of California, Santa Cruz to believe that the shell has inner spikes extending into the moon's interior.

"Normally, if you fly over a mountain, you expect to see an increase in gravity due to the extra mass of the mountain," said Nimmo, a Cassini project scientist. "On Titan, when you fly over a mountain, the gravity gets lower. That's a very odd observation."

The explanation for this gravity shift could be that each mountain is actually the top of these deep roots, which are like icebergs pushing into the interior oceans. Cassini detected a weaker gravitational force because ice is slightly less dense than water (which means, in a given space, there's less mass and therefore less gravitational pull).

"It's like a big beach ball under the ice sheet pushing up on it, and the only way to keep it submerged is if the ice sheet is strong," said Cassini team associate Hemingway, who was lead author on a paper about the findings. "If large roots under the ice shell are the explanation, this means that Titan's ice shell must have a very thick rigid layer."

If the boffins are correct, that means that the tough layer is unlikely to have ice volcanoes, which other scientists have theorised could be responsible for other features on Titan.

The findings also suggest that the ice shell isn't recycled by plate tectonics or convection, like Earth's geologically active crust is. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?