Scientists: Saturn moon Titan may have internal ocean of water | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Scientists: Saturn moon Titan may have internal ocean of water

This photo released by NASA/JPL, acquired by the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Jan. 29, 2008, shows Saturn's frigid moon Titan as it approaches the brilliant limb of Saturn. Scientists announced Thursday, March 20, they have found the best evidence yet that an ocean may be hidden below the surface of Saturn's largest moon. (AP Photo/NASA, JPL, Space Science Institute)
AP | NASA JPL SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) ” Scientists say they have found the best evidence yet that an ocean of liquid water may be hidden below the surface of Saturn’s giant moon Titan.

If the results are confirmed, it would be a starting point for further study into whether the ocean could be capable of supporting life.

The latest evidence of an underground ocean is indirect and is based on analyzing radar images and Titan’s spin rates from observations by the international Cassini spacecraft from 2004 to 2007.

Scientists found several dunes, channels, lakes and other geological features on Titan’s surface drifted from a fixed point, likely as a result of an increase of the moon’s rotation.

Using modeling techniques, scientists determined that winds in Titan’s atmosphere exert a torque on the lunar surface and concluded there must be a liquid ocean below. Such a large shift would not be seen if the interior was a solid core, they said.

“Only because the crust is thin and decoupled from the deep interior by this ocean is the wind able to move the crust around as much as we see,” lead author Ralph Lorenz of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

The findings were described in today’s issue of the journal Science.

If an internal ocean exists on Titan, it would likely be buried below 62 miles of ice and made of water and traces of ammonia, Lorenz said.

In an accompanying editorial, Christophe Sotin of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and Gabriel Tobie of the University of Nantes in France wrote that further observations are needed to test for the existence of an underground ocean.


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