The surfaces of Earth, Mars, and Titan, Saturn's largest moon, have all been scoured by rivers. Yet despite this similarity and the amazingly Earth-like landscapes of Titan complete with valleys, lakes, and mountains, researchers led by City College of New York geologist Benjamin Black report new evidence that the origins of the topography there and on Mars are different from on Earth.
In their paper "Global drainage patterns and the origins of topographic relief on Earth, Mars, and Titan," published in the latest issue of Science, the team identifies plate tectonics on Earth as one key difference.
Plate tectonics is the theory that Earth's crust is made up of large, moving pieces called plates. The relative motions, regeneration, and recycling of these plates continuously reshape the surface of the Earth, in the process uplifting topography in some areas much more than others. As mountain ranges jut up, they can divert rivers as they flow toward the sea.
While the origins of the topography on Titan remain somewhat mysterious, Black's research team discovered that the rivers there, likely carved by liquid methane, have not been as thoroughly rerouted as rivers on Earth.
"It's important to realize that almost every aspect of Earth's surface has been shaped by plate tectonics," Black says. "So there is nowhere we can look to see what landscapes would look like without plate tectonics. That's where Mars and Titan come in. We can use these three worlds as natural experiments. They are like siblings that have followed different life paths."
"Before the discovery of plate tectonics, there were all kinds of theories for the origins of Earth's topography," Black adds. "What really fires my imagination is thinking about the sheer possibilities even in our solar system. One of the big takeaways from our research is that each world seems to strike its own balance in terms of the processes that are shaping the surface we see."
The research team also included Taylor Perron (MIT), Douglas Hemingway
(UC Berkeley), Elizabeth Bailey (Caltech), Francis Nimmo (UC Santa Cruz) and Howard Zebker (Stanford University).
Jay Mwamba | EurekAlert!
Two dimensional circuit with magnetic quasi-particles
22.01.2018 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation
19.01.2018 | Carnegie Institution for Science
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.01.2018 | Life Sciences