Tallest mountains ever
The tallest mountains ever seen on Titan - coated with layers of organic material and blanketed by clouds - have been imaged on Saturn’s moon Titan by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
"We see a massive mountain range that kind of reminds me of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the western United States. This mountain range is continuous and is about 150 kilometres long, " said Dr Bob Brown, team leader of the Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS) at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
During a flyby on 25 October, designed to obtain the highest resolution infrared views of Titan yet, Cassini resolved surface features as small as 400 meters. The images reveal a large mountain range, dunes, and a deposit of material that resembles a volcanic flow. These data, together with radar data from previous flybys, provide new information on the height and composition of geologic features on Titan.
Exposing Titan’s Surface
If Titan were Earth, these mountains would lie south of the equator, somewhere in New Zealand. The range is about 150 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide and about 1.5 kilometers high. Deposits of bright, white material, which may be methane 'snow' or exposures of some other organic material, lie at the top of the mountain ridges.
"These mountains are probably as hard as rock, made of icy materials, and are coated with different layers of organics, " said Dr Larry Soderblom, Cassini interdisciplinary scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Ariz.
He added, "There seem to be layers and layers of various coats of organic 'paint' on top of each other on these mountain tops, almost like a painter laying the background on a canvas. Some of this organic gunk falls out of the atmosphere as rain, dust, or smog onto the valley floors and mountain tops, which are coated with dark spots that appear to be brushed, washed, scoured and moved around the surface."