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Dark dunes on Titan could be made from comets.

Comets Could Have Formed The Dark Dunes On Titan.

Did comets cause the dark dunes on Titan?

The vast dunes on Titan seem to have been formed by comets striking the moon, planetary scientist William Bottke said on March 12th at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Computer simulations suggest that the dunes formed from objects hailing from the primordial Kuiper Belt, a source of comets beyond Neptune. The proposed scenario could explain the presence of similar material observed on other worlds, said Bottke.


an artist's rendering of a group of small objects in space

Bottke and his colleagues ran computer simulations on how Saturn, Jupiter and their moons evolved during this chaotic period, tracking how much small comet dust and how many large impactors fell on Titan and other moons of Saturn and Jupiter.

Both the dust and the impactors could have delivered more than enough material to be responsible for Titan’s dunes, the team found. “We have two sources that can potentially do this,” Bottke said.

Moreover, the simulations showed that much of the material also struck Jupiter’s moons Callisto and Ganymede and the Saturnian moon Iapetus, all of which have large patches of dark material. The dark material on Iapetus is thought to have come from somewhere else says Radebaugh, who was not involved in the research. So it’s possible that Titan’s sands could have otherworldly origins too, she says.

NASA is launching Dragonfly, a new mission to Titan set to launch in 2028 that could solve the mystery. Instruments onboard the rotorcraft can take measurements of the compositions of the dune particles.


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Titan’s dark dunes could be made from comets

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