Mile-High Mountains Found on Saturn's Moon Titan

Richard A. Lovett in San Francisco, California
for National Geographic News
December 13, 2006

Saturn's giant moon Titan has a mountain range tall enough to produce streamers of clouds that extend far around the moon, scientists say.

The peaks are the largest mountains discovered on Titan to date.

"You could call this the Titan Sierras," said Robert Brown of the University of Arizona, in a reference to California's Sierra Nevada range.

Brown announced the find in San Francisco, California, on December 11 at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The mountains were photographed by the Cassini spacecraft, now in orbit around Saturn. The craft turned its visual and infrared cameras on the moon during a close flyby on October 25.

(See a National Geographic magazine feature on Cassini's Saturn mission.)

The mountain range is nearly 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) tall and 100 miles (150 kilometers) long.

Several smaller ranges appear to be nearby, as does a circular feature that might be the crater from an ancient asteroid impact powerful enough to have punched through Titan's outer crust.

Brown speculates that the mountains might be a chain of volcanoes that oozed up along cracks in the crust after the impact.

Titan "Remarkably Earthlike"

Some scientists caution that there shouldn't be a rush to dub the newfound range the Mount Everest of Titan.

Earth's tallest mountain, Mount Everest reaches heights of about 5.5 miles (8.8 kilometers).

Continued on Next Page >>




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