SCIENTISTS have reported on the strongest sign yet that Saturn’s giant moon may have a salty ocean beneath its chilly surface.
If confirmed, it would catapult Titan into an elite class of solar system moons harbouring water, an essential ingredient for life.
Titan boasts methane-filled seas at the poles and a possible lake near the equator. And it’s long been speculated Titan contains a hidden liquid layer, based on mathematical modelling and electric field measurements made by the Huygens spacecraft that landed on the surface in 2005.
The latest evidence is still indirect, but outside scientists said it’s probably the best that can be obtained short of sending a spacecraft to drill into the surface.
The research looks convincing, said Gabriel Tobie of France’s University of Nantes.
“If the analysis is correct, this is a very important finding,” Mr Tobie said.
Saturn’s foggy moon Titan has oceans of water ‘sloshing around’ under crust of ice
Gravity measurements reveal deformations in Titan’s interior that suggest a layer of liquid ‘sloshing around’
A watery ocean may lie beneath the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, scientists believe.
Gravity measurements reveal deformations in Titan’s interior that suggest a layer of liquid ‘sloshing around’.
The ocean is thought to be made of water with a depth of a couple of hundred kilometres. It appears to cover the entire moon beneath 100 kilometres of ice.
The evidence comes from the American space agency Nasa’s probe Cassini, which made six fly-bys of Titan between 2006 and 2011.
Scientists used signals beamed back by Cassini to measure distortions in Titan’s gravitational field.