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Titan`s second largest sea has mirror-like smooth surface

Last Updated: Friday, March 21, 2014 - 14:50

Washington: Radar measurements made in 2013 by NASA`s Cassini spacecraft, reveal that the surface of Ligeia Mare, Titan`s second largest sea, possesses a mirror-like smoothness, possibly due to a lack of winds.

"If you could look out on this sea, it would be really still. It would just be a totally glassy surface ," Howard Zebker, professor of geophysics and of electrical engineering at Stanford who is the lead author of a new study detailing the research, said.
The findings also indicate that the solid terrain surrounding the sea is likely made of solid organic materials and not frozen water.

Saturn`s second largest moon, Titan has a dense, planet-like atmosphere and large seas made of methane and ethane.

Measuring roughly 260 miles (420 km) by 217 miles (350 km), Ligeia Mare is larger than Lake Superior on Earth.

" Titan is the best analog that we have in the solar system to a body like the Earth because it is the only other body that we know of that has a complex cycle of solid, liquid, and gas constituents," Zebker said.
The radar measurements suggest the surface of Ligeia Mare is eerily still.

"Cassini`s radar sensitivity in this experiment is one millimeter, so that means if there are waves on Ligeia Mare, they`re smaller than one millimeter. That`s really, really smooth," Zebker said.

One possible explanation for the sea`s calmness is that no winds happened to be blowing across that region of the moon when Cassini made its flyby.

Another possibility is that a thin layer of some material is suppressing wave action.

The findings are published online in Geophysical Research Letters.

First Published: Friday, March 21, 2014 - 14:50
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