NASA bombshell: Freak liquid nitrogen bombs explode to create mammoth craters near Saturn

The lakes are surrounded by soaring cliffs hundred of metres high, and the new study proposes that the liquid methane lakes on Titan’s surface may sit in craters blasted out by liquid-nitrogen bombs. The models suggest that explosions of warming nitrogen created basins in the moon’s crust. During Casini’s last close flyby of Titan, as the spacecraft prepared for its final plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere two years ago an international team of scientists led by Giuseppe Mitri of Italy’s G. d’Annunzio University became convinced that the karstic model didn’t fit with what they saw in the new images that Casini sent back. Mr Mitri said: ”The rim goes up, and the karst process works in the opposite way.

”We were not finding any explanation that fit with a karstic lake basin.

“In reality, the morphology was more consistent with an explosion crater, where the rim is formed by the ejected material from the crater interior.

“It’s totally a different process.”

Jonathan Lunine, a Cassini scientist who co-authored the study, said in a release: “These lakes with steep edges, ramparts, and raised rims would be a signpost of periods in Titan’s history when there was liquid nitrogen on the surface and in the crust.”

The lakes of Titan's north pole may have been formed by explosive liquid nitrogen

The lakes of Titan’s north pole may have been formed by explosive liquid nitrogen (Image: GETTY)

Artists view of Titan's surface

Artists view of Titan’s surface (Image: GETTY)

Most existing models that lay out the origin of Titan’s lakes show liquid methane dissolving the moon’s bedrock of ice and solid organic compounds, carving reservoirs that fill with the liquid.

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This may be the origin of a type of lake on Titan that has sharp boundaries.

On Earth, bodies of water that formed similarly, by dissolving surrounding limestone, are known as karstic lakes.

A leading theory of Titan-lake formation posits that many of these bodies were carved by liquid methane, which dissolved the moon’s bedrock of water ice and organic compounds.

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Artists view of Titan's surface

Artists view of Titan’s surface (Image: GETTY)

This process is known to occur in places here on Earth where water eats through limestone substrate, forming “karstic lakes.”

But, a new, alternative model for some of the smaller lakes, tens of miles across, turns that theory upside down.

The smaller lakes near Titan’s north pole have steep sides with tall rims that reach high into the moon’s sky, radar imagery by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has shown.

That profile doesn’t fit the karstic model, authors of the new study said.


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Artists view of Titan's surface

Artists view of Titan’s surface (Image: GETTY)

Artists view of Titan's surface

Artists view of Titan’s surface (Image: GETTY)

“The rim goes up, and the karstic process works in the opposite way,” lead author Giuseppe Mitri, of Italy’s G. d’Annunzio University, said in a statement.

The multitude of small lakes have rims that tower hundreds of feet above sea level.

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That surprised scientists, since the erosion process that formed other lakes on Titan couldn’t have created those cliffs.

Blasts of exploding nitrogen, on the other hand, would have been powerful enough to create craters with tall rims of debris, which became the lakes we now see.

Space Exploration Fact File

Space Exploration Fact File (Image: Express)

It proposes pockets of liquid nitrogen in Titan’s crust warmed, turning into explosive gas that blew out craters, which then filled with liquid methane.

The new theory explains why some of the smaller lakes near Titan’s north pole, like Winnipeg Lacus, appear in radar imaging to have very steep rims that tower above sea level, rims difficult to explain with the karstic model.

So the new data proposes that Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, might have a more violent past than astronomers realised.

And the existing new study alleges that the liquid methane lakes that dot Titan’s surface may have formed when pockets of warming nitrogen exploded below the moon’s surface.


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