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Titan Sand Dunes Created by Unusual Blowing Winds, Research Shows

Image: Titan Sand Dunes Created by Unusual Blowing Winds, Research Shows
A handout image showing dark streaks carved into dunes reminiscent of those we might find on a beach on Earth on Saturn's Titan moon. (NASA/JPL/Caltech/Landov)

By    |   Tuesday, 09 Dec 2014 07:31 PM

Towering sand dunes on Saturn’s Titan moon were formed by short, powerful winds, new research suggests.

The 300-foot dunes seem to form in the opposite direction of the moon’s steady east-to-west winds, Space.com reported, and two new studies suggest that they are formed by rare bursts of wind from a westward direction.

"This work highlights the fact that the winds that blow 95 percent of the time might have no effect on what we see," Devon Burr, a planetary scientist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, said, according to Space.com.

The research was conducted in a wind tunnel in which scientists tried to recreate conditions on the surface of Titan.

In another report, data from the Cassini spacecraft shows the dunes may have taken as long as 3,000 Saturn years to form and may be influenced by changes in Saturn's orbit, Space.com said.

Scientists are trying to understand the moon’s winds by studying climate models similar to those developed to study the Earth's climate, according to a report in Nature.

The sand on Titan is made of hydrocarbon particles similar to soot, Nature said.

Dune fields cover about 13 percent of Titan, covering an area about the size of Canada.

Burr’s research found that winds must travel 50 percent faster than previously thought to cause sand particles to start to move, Sci-News said.

The two studies produced information that will be helpful in understanding Titan's historical climate.

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Towering sand dunes on Saturn's Titan moon were formed by short, powerful winds, new research suggests.
titan, sand, dunes, saturn, winds
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2014-31-09
Tuesday, 09 Dec 2014 07:31 PM
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