by Staff Writers
Paris (UPI) Jan 16, 2012
Saturn's moon Titan may be more like Earth-like than previously thought with a layered atmosphere just like our planet, European researchers said.
Titan is the only moon in the solar system known to have a dense atmosphere, and its lowest layer, known as its boundary layer, is most influenced by its surface.
This is true of any world possessing a dense atmosphere, researchers said.
"This layer is very important for the climate and weather -- we live in the terrestrial boundary layer [on Earth]," study lead author Benjamin Charnay, a planetary scientist at France's National Center of Scientific Research, told SPACE.com
Earth's boundary layer, between 1,650 feet and 1.8 miles thick, is affected largely by solar heat warming the planet's surface.
The boundary layer on Titan, much further from the sun, might behave quite differently, researchers said.
To study Titan's atmosphere, scientists created a 3D climate model of how it might react under the influence of solar heat over time.
"The most important implication of these findings is that Titan appears closer to an Earth-like world than once believed," Charnay said.
The research could prove useful for further explorations beyond our solar system, he said.
Three-dimensional "models will be very useful in the future to explain the data we will get about the atmospheres of exoplanets," Charnay said.
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