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Mysterious 'Magic Islands' in Saturn's Moon Titan May Be Fizzy Nitrogen Lakes

Mar 20, 2017 06:14 AM EDT
Cassini Spacecraft Reveals Titan Surface Details
UNDATED: This undated NASA handout shows Saturn's moon, Titan, in ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths. The Cassini spacecraft took the image while on its mission to. gather information on Saturn, its rings, atmosphere and moons. The different colors represent various atmospheric content on Titan.
(Photo : NASA via Getty Images)

Saturn is one of the most beautiful planets in the Solar System. Scientists, astronomers and space fans have admired it for the beauty of its rings. However, it appears that there's a "fizzy" magic happening in one of its moons, Titan.

According to a recent NASA study, researchers have discovered that the hydrocarbon lakes and seas on Titan's surface actually erupt, forming a lot of "magic" bubbles (thus, the name "magic islands"). However, researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have simulated the conditions on Titan and figured out that these are no ordinary bubbles but are actually nitrogen.

NASA revealed that nitrogen is capable of being dissolved in the cold liquid methane rain in Saturn's moon Titan. Slight changes in temperature and air pressure can cause nitrogen to go unstable, like the fizz from opening a carbonated soda bottle.

Read Also: NASA's Cassini Probe Captures Weird Hexagon Storm in Saturn

According to Michael Malaska of NASA's JPL and leader of the study, the composition of these "magic islands" depends on the kind of ethane and methane present in the lakes. The more methane is mixed in the ethane lake, the more unstable the nitrogen becomes.

Titan's "magic islands" have been observed in the past by Saturn-exploring probe, Cassini. Researchers have proposed different theories about it, but it's just now that they have come up to a conclusion.

"Thanks to this work on nitrogen's solubility, we're now confident that bubbles could indeed form in the seas and, in fact, may be more abundant than we'd expected," said Jason Hofgartner of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as quoted by Scientific American.

Cassini will make its final flyby of Titan on April 22. The spacecraft will try to "sweep" its radars on Titan's northern hemisphere one last time to gather data before returning to Saturn on Sept. 15, concluding Cassini's 20-year-journey to the ringed planet.

Read Also: Cassini Sends Clearest Images of Saturn's Ravioli-Shaped Moon Pan 

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