Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon, is larger than Mercury, and scientists believe that its surface is mostly sand formed by organic molecules. For years, observations have been made of massive dunes flowing across the surface. At times, these dunes form large mountains of sand cheekily called “magic islands” because they seemed to defy gravity and the wind by holding their structure. Through experiments conducted on Earth and observations made by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, a team now believes static electricity may well be the culprit.
Titan’s Magic Islands Are Not Quite Magic
This increases the overall effect of the static since the sand mainly serves as an insulator against the massive amount of electricity generated by atmospheric friction. It is also the same friction that creates lightning storms on our planet. However, on Titan, they have far more power.
When the storms get especially active, this charge can then be stored up on the surface of individual particles of sand. This causes them to act as tiny magnets, clinging to one another in defiance of gravity and wind.