(Hat Tip: The Space Fellowship, Image Credit: NASA)

Located approximately 1.5 billion kilometers away from the Sun, Saturn’s Titan may prove to be one of the more interesting worlds to live upon in our solar system.

While it would not be surprising to see cites constructed upon the moon due to its methane lakes, future colonists may find its sand to be “slightly irritating.”

(NASA) On Earth, sand grains form by breaking things down, but on Titan, the opposite may be true – with much of the sand a product of building things up.

That’s one theory Cassini scientists are considering after studying Titan’s massive sand dunes with the visible and infrared mapping spectrometer on the Cassini Saturn orbiter. The new observations raise the possibility that much of the sand grows from hydrocarbon particulates fallen from the sky that, once on the ground, join together and become sand grain-size particles. […]

In the May 2008 issue of the journal Icarus Cassini scientists report that dunes contain less water ice than the rest of Titan. The dark brown sands appear to be made up of the same kind of complex organic chemicals that dominate Titan’s smoggy atmosphere. If the dunes are made up of the same dark material on the inside as they have on the outside, then there’s simply too much organic sand to have come from erosion alone.

The new findings may help explain how, once on the ground, hydrocarbon particulates the size of smoke particles might grow into sand grains through a process called “sintering” – a slight melting that welds particles together. It may be that sintering produces particles that are just the right size for sand grains – between 0.18-0.25 millimeters and no larger, perfect for blowing in the wind and drifting into dunes.

If humanity desires to ever live upon this world, they may have to find a way to counteract this sintering effect, as the last thing colonists need is to have these particles building up upon future spaceports, buildings and homes (not to mention rocket ships).

Share on Tumblr