Astronomers Find 1,000 Feet Deep Sea On Saturn's Largest Moon 'Titan'

The surface of Titan, Saturn's biggest moon, is one of the sites where many scientists think life may exist in our solar system. 

Titan possesses a gaseous atmosphere, and scientists have found that underneath that atmosphere lies Kraken Mare, a sea of liquid methane. Cornell astronomers have calculated that the sea of liquid methane is at least 1000 feet deep at its center.

That's great news since experts believe it's deep enough for a prospective robotic submarine to investigate. The discovery comes after the researchers combed through data from one of Titan's last Cassini flybys. Except for Kraken Mare, the depth and composition of Titan's oceans have previously been measured, according to lead author Valerio Poggiali.

Kraken Mare is the moon's biggest sea, accounting for around 80% of its surface liquids. Titan is around a billion miles from Earth and is shrouded in a golden haze of gaseous nitrogen. According to NASA, the surface seen through the clouds looks like Earth, complete with methane rivers, lakes, and seas.

The data used by scientists to determine the depth of Titan's biggest sea was collected during the Cassini T104 flyby on August 21, 2014. The spacecraft's radar was scanning Ligeia Mare, a smaller sea in Titan's northern polar area, seeking the "Magic Island," which emerges and vanishes into the sea.

The spacecraft utilized its radar altimeter to assess the liquid depth at Kraken Mare and Moray Sinus while circling Titan at 13,000 mph at 600 miles above the surface. The depth may be calculated by observing the radar's return time discrepancies on the liquid surface and the seafloor. The quantity of radar energy absorbed during passage through the liquid is used to calculate the composition. Moray Sinus is around 280 feet deep, but Kraken Mare was too deep to measure with the altimeter, resulting in the 1000-foot estimate.

Reference(s): Cornell University

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