Ice Volcanoes of Titan

NASA may have spotted evidence of ice volcanoes on Saturn’s moon.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has found possible ice volcanoes on Saturn’s moon Titan that are similar in shape to those on Earth that spew molten rock.

Topography and surface composition data have enabled scientists to make the best case yet in the outer solar system for an Earth-like volcano landform that erupts in ice. The results were presented today at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

“When we look at our new 3-D map of Sotra Facula on Titan, we are struck by its resemblance to volcanoes like Mt. Etna in Italy, Laki in Iceland and even some small volcanic cones and flows near my hometown of Flagstaff,” said Randolph Kirk, who led the 3-D mapping work, and is a Cassini radar team member and geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Scientists have been debating for years whether ice volcanoes, also called cryovolcanoes, exist on ice-rich moons, and if they do, what their characteristics are. The working definition assumes some kind of subterranean geological activity warms the cold environment enough to melt part of the satellite’s interior and sends slushy ice or other materials through an opening in the surface. Volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and Earth spew silicate lava.

source, more

Comments

  1. #1 bcoppola
    December 15, 2010

    BFD. When they find evidence of a beer volcano, that’ll be something.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    December 15, 2010

    NASA recently reported a beer volcano on a nearby planet. They had a press release and a press conference and everything, even an animation.

    But then it turned out to be Miller Lite. The blogosphere went nuts and NASA lost all its credibility.