Does Saturn's moon hide underground oceans?
Observations of how Titan warps as it orbits Saturn provides strong evidence for a liquid ocean buried under the surface of the gas giant's largest moon.
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The strong way in which Titan deformed in response to Saturn hints that the moon has quite a flexible interior. This adds evidence to suggestions that an ocean lies concealed beneath a relatively thin shell 60 miles (100 kilometers) or less thick.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Cassini's view of Saturn
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"An ocean inside Titan was expected, but it was a matter of speculation — these measurements now essentially tell you for sure there is a subsurface ocean," Iess told SPACE.com.
It remains uncertain just how deep this ocean might be. "We cannot say if it is 10 kilometers (6 miles) or 100 kilometers (60 miles) or more," Iess said. "We only know that there is a liquid layer."
These hidden seas might be seasoned with the chemical ingredients of life, just as Titan's surface and atmosphere are. "Our measurements do not say anything about the existence of life on Titan, but there is a large inventory of organic molecules there, and there is water, so there are all the ingredients that may lead to life," Iess said.
Future analysis of Titan's tides could reveal more about the moon's history, Iess said, such as why its orbit is so oval-shaped — whether its orbit began that way, or was due to a cosmic impact with another body.
The scientists detailed their findings online today (June 28) in the journal Science.
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