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NASA discovers towering peak on icy Saturn moon

by Brandon Russell | March 25, 2016March 25, 2016 1:00 pm PST

Have you already conquered all the mountain ranges here on planet Earth? If you can find an extraterrestrial Uber, scientists have discovered a new mountain on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, that’s just begging to be climbed.

Estimated to be nearly 11,000 feet high, the peak, which sits among a trio of mountains called Mithrim Montes, is presently considered the tallest point discovered on the Saturn moon. And if scientists are right, it’s probably the highest peak we’re likely to find.

“It’s not only the highest point we’ve found so far on Titan, but we think it’s the highest point we’re likely to find,” said Stephen Wall, deputy lead of the Cassini radar team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

While today’s news might make mountaineers anxious for a new peak to conquer, scientists say learning about Titan’s mountains tell them how its landscape has changed over time. Most of Titan’s mountains are clustered near the moon’s equator, but there are other regions with collections of more isolated peaks.

Titan’s geology is quite complex, consisting of a rocky icy crust atop an ocean of liquid water, which NASA says acts like Earth’s upper mantle. Scientists believe there was a period of “mountain-building,” which eventually settled into what we’re seeing today. Even still, nobody expected its mountains to be quite so tall. Really, though, it still pales in comparison to Everest here on Earth, which is just over 29,000 feet high.

“The fact that Titan has significant mountains at all suggests that some active tectonic forces could be affecting the surface, for example, related to Titan’s rotation, tidal forces from Saturn or cooling of the crust,” NASA explained. “The next step for the researchers will be trying to figure out what could produce such tall peaks on an icy ocean world.”

And the step after that? Maybe get some friends together and make a weekend climb out of it.

NASA

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.

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