Saturn’s moon, Titan, has been of interest to scientists for years. A new study out today suggests the subsurface ocean inside Titan would give the Dead Sea a run for its money.
As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft preps for its ‘Grand Finale’ it’s been collecting gravity data on Titan. This data points to an extremely high density ocean. Researchers believe this data points to a salty ocean since salt water is more dense than fresh water.
How salty? Researchers think it could be as salty as the Dead Sea of Israel and Jordan. They believe the dissolved salts are made of sodium, sulfur and potassium.
Here’s a bit more perspective. The average ocean on Earth has salt concentration of 3.5%. But, the Dead Sea can reach 40% in spots. Titan’s ocean is believed to be around the 40% mark.
“This is an extremely salty ocean by Earth standards,” lead study author Giuseppe Mitri, from the University of Nantes in France, said in a statement. “Knowing this may change the way we view this ocean as a possible abode for present-day life, but conditions might have been very different there in the past.”
Cassini’s constant flybys over the past decade have helped researchers create a new model of Titan’s outermost structure. An icy shell covers nearly all of Titan and scientists believe an ocean resides below this icy surface.
This new model could also provide some clues about Titan’s unique atmosphere which stands around 5% methane. The big mystery is where this methane comes from. Sunlight quickly breaks up methane, but Titan has a consistent 5% of methane.
Scientists believe a natural process must be responsible for maintaining the constant 5%. They believe methane rises into the atmosphere and then falls back to the moon as methane rain. The methane is believed to be rising from scattered unfrozen “hot spots.” At least, that’s the theory.
Researchers published the results in the journal Icarus.
Cassini’s discoveries will soon come to an end as it begins the last phase of its more than 10 year journey. The spacecraft launched in 1997 and cost $3.2 billion. I think we got our money’s worth though.