Cassini scientists have done their detective work and may have cracked the case of the ice volcano on Titan.


Sotra Facula on Titan is the best case yet of a cryovolcano in the outer solar system. In fact, there appears to be two cryovolcanos separated by a low area where we see some sand dunes. Here, we see data from radar and the visible and infrared mapping spectrometer.

This is false color to distinguish the different compositions of the surface. So the green areas are what we think are the volcanic areas, while the blues would be fields of sand dunes. Now, we change the color scheme. The reds and yellows are highs. The blues are lows.

When we got the topography, we see this tall mountain. It's about a thousand meters tall.

When you have a tall mountain and a deep crater and a lobate flow-like feature coming out of it, then it's very likely to be a cryovolcano. On Earth, volcanoes are formed by molten rock, or magma, that when it comes out, it's called lava. On Titan and other icy bodies such as Saturn's moon Enceladus, we have cryovolcanism, that is very cold volcanism and the material inside these bodies, the quote, 'magma', is not molten rock. It's actually a watery mixture. It's water with probably ammonia and maybe methanol and other things. Material is being brought from the interior of the moon or the planet, to the surface. This is important for a number of reasons and one of them is that if you still have heat and enough heat to actually cause cryovolcanism to occur and if you have water, then those are the two ingredients that you need for life.
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