During a recent flyby by NASA's Cassini mission a mysterious formation appeared to rise from the depths. But then, just as mysteriously as it appeared, "Magic Island" (as it has become known by planetary scientists) vanished.
In a new paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, an international team of researchers have arrived at some explanations for Magic Island. Sadly, none of them point to an extraterrestrial Atlantis.
Titan is the only moon in the solar system to have a thick atmosphere. However, the Saturnian moon is so cold that liquid water cannot exist on its surface. The large bodies of liquids that do exist are composed of methane and ethane two organic compounds that have very low freezing points and can exist in a liquid state in Titan's frigid environment.
Like Earth's water cycle, Titan's atmosphere is known to have a methane and ethane cycle, where bodies of the liquids accumulate in seas, evaporate, condense and precipitate as a very alien rain. Rivers cut valleys into the landscape and the seas give way to landmasses awash with hydrocarbons. It's for these reasons that scientists are fascinated with this little word and its hazy atmosphere it is not so dissimilar from a primordial Earth containing the ingredients for life, only in different quantities and much further away from he sun.
So it was with great interest when, Cassini beamed back images of Ligeia Mare, a sea located near Titan's north pole, a bright feature looking like an island appeared from the depths. But then, during a follow-up flyby only days later, the island had gone. Further Cassini flybys confirmed that Magic Island had vanished.