The mystery of the missing waves on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, has astronomers scratching their heads. On Friday, NASA dropped a new video called, “The Mystery of the Missing Waves on Titan” that takes a look at the puzzling question.
Over the years, scientists have drawn more and more comparisons between the Earth and Titan.
Most planets and moons in our solar system are unlivable balls of rock like our moon or equally hostile globes of gas like Jupiter.
But the badly named planet Earth has about 70 percent of its surface covered by water, which allows it to host a wide variety of life.
The only planet or moon besides Earth that is known to host large, stable bodies of liquid is Titan. The Cassini-Huygens mission in 2004 discovered that Saturn’s largest moon hosted liquid hydrocarbon lakes in the satellite’s polar regions.
But there’s a problem.
As you’ll see in the video, if there are lakes, there should be waves. Yet Titan’s waves are missing.
Some people have theorized that the wind doesn’t blow strongly enough. But it isn’t clear how they square that with a different theory floated earlier this year that the winds on Titan can get strong enough to support tropical cyclone storm force winds.
As you’ll see in the new video, NASA is now considering the idea that a breeze of a piffling one to two miles an hour would be enough to whip up the waves on Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes. Is it possible that the wind speed hasn’t gotten that high in the time lapsed since Cassini’s arrival in 2004?
According to that thinking, the lake country of Saturn’s moon Titan has indeed been locked in a frozen winter. However, NASA said that summer is now on its way. The winds are expected to start blowing as we approach Titan’s summer solstice in 2017.
We’ll have a real Saturn moon mystery if Titan’s missing waves don’t appear by then.
[Saturn, Titan, and Titan's shadow still photo by NASA, ESA, and E. Karkoschka (University of Arizona)]