SCIENCE
11/13/2014 01:13 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

More Mysterious 'Magic Islands' Appear On Giant Saturn Moon

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Idaho

The "magic island" mystery on Saturn's moon Titan just became more puzzling.

Last year, astronomers spotted a strange bright feature in Titan's Ligeia Mare sea that they called a "magic island." The object first appeared in photos of the sea in July 2013, and then seemed to vanish until it reappeared in new photos taken over a year later.

Now, two new "magic islands" have suddenly emerged in Titan's largest sea Kraken Mare, as shown in photos taken of the area by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

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magic islands saturn moon
Two images from the radar experiment on NASA's Cassini spacecraft show that a bright feature appeared in Kraken Mare, the largest hydrocarbon sea on Saturn's moon Titan, between May 2013 and August 2014

What could these strange features be?

"They could be waves, or they could be something more solid," Dr. Jason Soderblom, a researcher at MIT and member of the Cassini team reporting the observations, told National Geographic. "We definitely know now they are something reflecting from the surface."

The Cassini spacecraft is not scheduled to fly by Kraken Mare again for further observations, according to NASA, but the spacecraft is set to observe the original "magic island" spotted in Ligeia Mare once more in January.

The new "magic island" discoveries were presented this week at the Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting of the American Astronomical Society held in Tucson, Arizona.

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