A new study of the “magic islands” of Titan, a moon of Saturn.

Titan is Saturn’s largest moon and one of the most unusual in the solar system. Available satellite images show that throughout its five thousand area there are seas and rivers of methane and ethane. Sometimes these lakes of dark liquid hydrocarbons produce areas of visible territory with short lifespans. Since their discovery in 2014, the scientific community has called them “magic islands” because there is no consensus on their nature.

Journal article Letters on Geophysical Research offers an explanation for these formations. To planetary scientist Xinting Yu, the mysterious soil is a collection of solid organic matter bound into a honeycomb structure. The resulting structures float on the sea until they dissolve in it.

The islands will be formed by frozen molecules of organic compounds falling out of the atmosphere. The main suspects are nitriles, triple-bonded hydrocarbons and benzene. The author suggests that its consistency is likely to resemble that of a porous material such as pumice.

magical islands of titans

In April 2007, the Cassini probe examined one of Titan’s lakes. After a short time, the island appeared and disappeared again.


Possible origin of the Titan islands

Xingting Yu’s research team took into account the known physical characteristics of Titan to formulate a hypothetical model of the platforms. “Magic Islands” are apparently unlikely. Methane and ethane from seas and lakes give the liquid a low surface tension. The intrinsic property of liquid means that most solids cannot float long enough to be observed by probes and telescopes.

Xingting Yu believes that Titan’s ephemeral islands should function like glaciers on Earth. Large chunks of organic compounds, like Swiss cheese, accumulate and compact on the moon’s shores over time. When a certain moment comes, the space of the territory bifurcates and the porous glacier sets off on a one-way journey to the hydrocarbon seas. The tubes and holes in its structure cause the island to float and the liquid gradually seeps out until it disappears.

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