Astronomy Planets Today



For all its romance inspiring awesomeness, the moon has another side to its personality. Werewolves, mood swings and even wild behavior are often blamed on the full moon. How many times have you heard the question acrimoniously asked, "is it a full moon tonight?" Vast regions of dark dunes also extend across Titan's exotic landscape, especially around its equatorial regions. Unlike Earth's sand, the "sand" that creates Titan's dunes is composed of dark grains of hydrocarbon that resemble coffee grounds. The tall linear dunes of this misty moisty moon-world appear to be quite similar to those seen in the desert of Namibia in Africa. Because Titan's surface is pockmarked by relatively few impact craters, its surface is considered to be quite young. Older surfaces display heavier cratering than more youthful surfaces, whose craters have been "erased" by resurfacing. This resurfacing is caused by processes that cover the scars left by old impacts as time goes by. Our own planet is similar to Titan in this respect. The craters of Earth are erased by the ongoing processes of flowing liquid (water on Earth), powerful winds, and the recycling of Earth's crust as a result of plate-tectonics. These processes also occur on Titan, but in modified forms. In particular, the shifting of the ground resulting from pressures coming from beneath (plate tectonics), also appear to be at work on this veiled moon-world. However, planetary scientists have not seen signs of plates on Titan that are analogous to those of our own planet. Dr. Soderblom further explained to the press that the gravity signatures of the larger craters especially may shed new light into the number of impacts Earth's Moon, and other bodies in our Solar System, suffered during the asteroid-rampage that characterized the Late Heavy Bombardment.