Scientists have spotted bright, island-like structures that appear to change—brightening and dimming over time—on Saturn’s moon, Titan. The findings were made grounded on radar imageries captured by the Cassini spacecraft from 2007 to 2015. NASA explains “Analysis by Cassini scientists indicates that the bright features, informally known as the ‘magic island,’ are a phenomenon that changes over time. They conclude that the brightening is due to either waves, solids at or beneath the surface or bubbles, with waves thought to be the most likely explanation. They think tides, sea level and seafloor changes are unlikely to be responsible for the brightening”
The images also display that alike landscapes exist in Kraken Mare. These findings suggest that Titan’s oceans are not still, but rather, they are active environments that flux and change. The 2016 federal budget allotted by the US Congress permitted NASA to carry on exploration of outer the Solar System—this gives lunar researchers more time to include Europa, Titan, and Enceladus in their exploration. So luckily, more chances to explore Titan will permit a closer look as Cassini conducts further flybys.
Researchers consider that all of the above-mentioned moons (Europa, Titan, and Enceladus) are home to some sort of liquid ocean. In fact, we know for sure that some of them are.
The director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Charles Elachi, said in a release “Clouds in Titan’s atmosphere rain out liquid methane and ethane, which then collects into lakes that dot Titan’s Earth-like landscape. On Earth, however, our lakes are carved into rock, whereas on Titan the lakes of methane and ethane are carved into a shell of water ice. Beneath Titan’s icy shell may reside a global liquid water ocean. Could life have arisen on such a world? For many in the planetary science community, Titan is heralded as the place to go to look for “weird life”—life unlike life as we know it, life that may have originated in liquid methane instead of liquid water,”.
And there is even positive thought for alien life. Elachi continues, “Titan is a world full of organic molecules, which are of course key building blocks for life.” This offers encouraging opportunities for our study of organic chemistry—and the likelihood of new life that may have developed.