Saturn’s moon Titan is a distant and frigid world, but it also carries intriguing similarities to Earth’s own terrain.
The spacecraft spotted “odd, very striking features” around some of Titan’s lakes.
The study’s lead author, Giuseppe Mitri of G. D’Annunzio University in Italy, says that these exploding crater lakes are evidence of climate change on Saturn’s largest moon – the only satellite in our solar system with a significant atmosphere.
“The idea that the pits within which Titan’s lakes reside are explosive in origin is new and intriguing,” says Oded Aharonson, a planetary scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel who was not involved in the study.
And while the Cassini spacecraft was intentionally plunged into Saturn in 2017, Lunine expects many more intriguing discoveries about Titan to come from from the mission’s data over the next decade.
Other opportunities could come from Dragonfly, a robotic lander that NASA plans to launch to Titan in 2026 which may also provide clarity about changes in the moon’s climate.
Though it’s unlikely humans will visit Titan in the near future, Lunine jokes that visiting one of Earth’s explosion crater lakes, such as Italy’s Lago di Nemi, might be the next best thing.