An incredible new theory based on the mysterious geophysics of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, proposes that a gigantic ocean of water lies beneath the planetoid. The paper is scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. [“Titan’s Obliquity as evidence for a subsurface ocean?”]
Researchers were led to their revelation by measurements of Titan’s surface features. The exacting measurements indicates that the moon’s crust may rest upon a giant reservoir of water.
Using the sophisticated radar carried by NASA’s Cassini space probe, the researchers peered through Titan’s thick, murky atmosphere. As the team observed and measured the moon’s topography they came upon the surprising realization that Titan’s surface features shifted by as much as 19 miles.
Could it be that the surface actually floated on top of an underground ocean?
Titan is the second largest moon in the solar system, only the Jovian moon Ganymede is larger. If it had it’s own orbit it would be considered a planet. It’s also bigger than Mercury and Pluto. As the only moon in the solar system with liquid on its surface—oceans and rivers of icy methane and ethane—if water is found under the surface in quantities enough to be measured as an ocean, the probability of alien life existing there greatly increases.
Titan has an atmosphere denser than Mercury, Earth, Mars and Pluto. The pressure at its surface is estimated to be about about 60 percent higher than Earth’s sea level pressure. Its atmosphere is rich with nitrogen and hydrocarbons creating its pastel orange-like color.
Some astronomers have speculated the Saturn moon might be similar to ancient Earth. Because of the chemical processes on the moon—the methane atmosphere is converted by sunlight to ethane, acetylene, ethylene, and hydrogen cyanide—scientists expect evidence of amino acids may eventually surface. If amino acids are found the discovery will be important as they are the basic foundation for life.
According to AstroBio.net, Titan has an icy shell layer floating on a liquid water ocean, an icy mantle beneath the water and an icy, rocky core.
Others theorize that the planet’s tilt may be caused by an impact with an asteroid or comet—others float the idea that Titan might be less dense at its core than at its surface. Most astronomers reject the anomalous core theory, including the Titan research team.
Lead researcher of the team, Rose-Marie Baland, from the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, told the Daily Mail: “This is in contradiction with all we know about others planets and satellites and planetary formation processes.”
Although the team believes water exists under the moon’s surface, others are not so sure.
“Our analysis strengthens the possibility that Titan has a subsurface ocean, but it does not prove it undoubtedly. So there is still work to do,” she admitted to the Daily Mail.
Baland and the rest of her team are determined to move ahead with their research and prove Titan has a subsurface ocean.
Artist conception of a Titan lake
Saturn in the skies over a Titan ocean
Actual photo of the surface of Titan [NASA]
Aerial views of Titan [NASA]
Ethereal world: The mists of Titan
High resolution image of Titan’s surface [NASA]