Liquid methane-filled canyons hundreds of meters deep with walls as steep as ski slopes etch the surface of Titan, researchers report in a new study. The new findings provide the first direct evidence of these features on Saturn's largest moon, and could give scientists insights into Titan's origins and similar geologic processes on Earth, according to the study's authors.
New Cassini radar observations of Titan's north pole depict cavernous gorges a little less than a kilome-ter (less than half a mile) wide with walls up to 570 meters (1870 feet) tall -- about 30 meters (98 feet) higher than New York's Freedom Tower. The eight canyons branch off from Vid Flumina, a more than 400-kilometer (249-mile) long river flowing into Titan's second-largest sea, Ligeia Mare. The new data confirm the canyons are filled with flowing methane -- a feature researchers had suspected but not directly observed, according to the study's authors.
The new findings suggest the canyons were likely carved by liquid methane draining into Vid Flumina, a process similar to the carving of river gorges on Earth, according to the study's authors. The new re-search could help scientists better understand these geological processes, they said.