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July 2012

Cassini Finds Likely Subsurface Ocean on Saturn Moon

July 12, 2012
Artist's conception of internal structure of Titan (A. Tavani)

Artist's conception of internal structure of Titan (A. Tavani)

Data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have revealed Saturn’s moon Titan likely harbors a layer of liquid water under its ice shell.

Researchers saw a large amount of squeezing and stretching as the moon orbited Saturn. They deduced that if Titan were composed entirely of stiff rock, the gravitational attraction of Saturn would cause bulges, or solid “tides,” on the moon only 1 meter in height. Spacecraft data show Saturn creates solid tides approximately 10 meters in height, which suggests Titan is not made entirely of solid rocky material. The finding appears in the latest edition of the journal Science.
“Cassini’s detection of large tides on Titan leads to the almost inescapable conclusion that there is a hidden ocean at depth,” said Luciano Iess, the paper’s lead author and a Cassini team member at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. “The search for water is an important goal in solar system exploration, and now we’ve spotted another place where it is abundant.”
The artist’s conception above shows a possible scenario for the internal structure of Titan.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.
For more on the Titan research, see the NASA press release.(http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-190)

Researchers saw a large amount of squeezing and stretching as the moon orbited Saturn. They deduced that if Titan were composed entirely of stiff rock, the gravitational attraction of Saturn would cause bulges, or solid “tides,” on the moon only 1 meter in height. Spacecraft data show Saturn creates solid tides approximately 10 meters in height, which suggests Titan is not made entirely of solid rocky material. The finding appears in the latest edition of the journal Science.

“Cassini’s detection of large tides on Titan leads to the almost inescapable conclusion that there is a hidden ocean at depth,” said Luciano Iess, the paper’s lead author and a Cassini team member at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. “The search for water is an important goal in solar system exploration, and now we’ve spotted another place where it is abundant.”

The artist’s conception above shows a possible scenario for the internal structure of Titan.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

For more on the Titan research, see the NASA press release.