Cassini Identifies highest mountain on Titan
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has identified the highest point on Saturn‘s largest moon, Titan.
Titan’s tallest peak is 10,948 feet (3,337 meters) high and is found within a trio of mountainous ridges called the Mithrim Montes.
“It’s not only the highest point we’ve found so far on Titan, but we think it’s the highest point we’re likely to find,” said Stephen Wall, deputy lead of the Cassini radar team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The researchers also found that all of Titan’s highest peaks are about 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) in elevation. Most of Titan’s tallest mountains appear to be close to the equator.
The researchers identified other peaks of similar height within the Mithrim Montes, as well as in the rugged region known as Xanadu, and in collections of more isolated peaks called “ridge belts” located near the landing site of ESA’s Huygens probe.
The study used images and other data from Cassini’s radar instrument.
“As explorers, we’re motivated to find the highest or deepest places, partly because it’s exciting. But Titan’s extremes also tell us important things about forces affecting its evolution,” said Jani Radebaugh, a Cassini radar team associate at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, who led the research.
The fact that Titan has significant mountains suggests that some active tectonic forces could be affecting the surface. A deep analysis of the surface topography of Titan could yield much in the way of sound information. The next step for the researchers will be trying to figure out what could produce such tall peaks on an icy ocean world.
“There is lot of value in examining the topography of Titan in a broad, global sense, since it tells us about forces acting on the surface from below as well as above,” said Jani Radebaugh.