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Avalanches on Saturn`s moon can explain landslides on Earth

Last Updated: Monday, July 30, 2012 - 16:13

London: Giant avalanches on the surface of Saturn`s moon, Iapetus, could provide answers about the destructive landslides on Earth, scientists say.

Researchers have analysed the dimensions of landslides on the Solar System`s most spectacular mountain range on Iapetus, using images from the Cassini mission, and found many up to fifty miles in length.

They now believe that understanding the cause of long landslides on Iapetus could aid in the understanding of unusually long landslides on Earth, which are potentially destructive natural hazards, the `Daily Mail` reported.

The giant ridge on Iapetus was only discovered in 2004 by NASA`s Cassini spacecraft. The mysterious icy rim that circles the equator of the planet is more than 12 miles high and runs almost a thousand miles from end to end.

Planetary scientist Kelsi Singer, of Washington University, Saint Louis, said Iapetus` "extremely cold, airless surface provides an excellent laboratory for studying long-runout landslides".

"We see landslides everywhere in the solar system, but Saturn`s icy moon Iapetus has more giant landslides than anybody other than Mars," Louis said.

The researchers, whose findings are published in `Nature Geoscience`, believe the sliding of material heats the underlying icy surface.

This renders the ground temporarily slippery and allows the landslide to travel an unusually long distance.

It is believed the Iapetus ridge, one of the most amazing features discovered in the Solar System, is the remains of a huge ring of debris that once orbited Iapetus but which eventually fell on to the moon.

Anyone standing at the base would be confronted with a mountain of ice higher than the biggest mountain on Earth and nearly as tall as Olympus Mons on Mars, the biggest volcano in the Solar System.

And it runs ram-rod straight off in either direction so they would not see it end, just the ridge disappearing over the horizon.


First Published: Monday, July 30, 2012 - 16:13

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