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Sinkholes, tectonics may have shaped Titan’s lakes and seas

Map of Saturn’s largest moon reveals clues about landscape

TITAN TECTONICS  Titan remains mysterious but this new mosaic image suggests that tectonic activity and sinkholes created seas and lakes (blue-black) near the moon’s north pole. Using radar data collected by the Cassini spacecraft, scientists pieced together this picture of Saturn’s largest moon.

SAN FRANCISCO — For a frigid hunk of rock and ice more than a billion kilometers away, Titan acts a lot like Earth. Lakes and seas that adorn Saturn’s largest moon may have formed in ways similar to those that created Earth’s bodies of water, according to an analysis of the newest map of Titan’s surface.

Vast, elongated seas and smaller, roundish lakes filled with oily liquid speckle the moon’s north pole. They could be the handiwork of tectonics and sinkholes, reported geophysicist Randolph Kirk of the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz., at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting on December 12.

“Earth has seas, and rivers, and rain, and tectonics, and volcanism and glaciers,” Kirk said. “Titan’s got the full list from Earth, except for life.”

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