By Amanda Kooser | CNet
Researchers speculate on the strange case of a missing island on Titan that disappeared from photographs over just a few days.
Strange happenings are afoot on Saturn’s fascinating moon Titan.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has conducted some flybys, collecting data along the way. In July 2013, the craft’s radar captured images of the Ligeia Mare, a large sea on Titan that’s mainly composed of liquid methane. Researchers noticed what looked like a bright little island on the sea’s surface, a feature that had not been seen in previous images. That island then completely vanished in images taken a couple weeks later.
Titan is not exactly known for sudden landscape changes. It’s currently on a very slow approach to its summer solstice in 2017 and hints of waves on the moon’s lakes were only recently observed earlier this year.
The case of the missing geologic object is the subject of a paper titled “Transient features in a Titan sea” published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience. Cornell planetary sciences graduate student Jason Hofgartner is the paper’s lead author.
The researchers are calling the finding a “magic island,” though the real magic is probably due to weather or other natural phenomena on the moon, which is known for sporting some Earth-like mountain, lake, and dune features.
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