Depth of Titan’s Liquid Methane Sea Likely to Be At Least 1,000 Feet

Mar, 2021 - By SMI

Depth of Titan’s Liquid Methane Sea Likely to Be At Least 1,000 Feet

According to a team of researchers from the Cornell University, Kraken Mare, the liquid-methane water body on Titan, is at least 1,000 feet deep at its center.

This depth is enough to deploy a potential unmanned submarine, the team mentioned in its recent findings published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. According to lead author, Valerio Poggiali who is a research associate at the CCAPS (Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science), depth of all the oceans on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, have already been measured. The depth of Kraken Mare, Titan’s largest sea, which contains approximately 80% of the moon’s surface liquid, had not been measured. Data collected by the Cassini mission’s fly-bys of the moon was crucial for these findings. The radar altimeter onboard the Cassini spacecraft was used to evaluate the depth of the Moray Sinus, a small inlet in the northern end of Kraken Mare, as well as the liquid depth of the sea. Technicians from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and scientists from Cornell figured out the method to distinguish the inlet from the sea’s depth by observing the radar’s return-time difference on the liquid surface and Kraken Mare’s foot, in addition to the sea’s structure by measuring the radar energy absorbed during its journey through the liquid.

The observations showed that the depth of the inlet is around 280 feet which was a lot shallower than depth near the center of Kraken Mare. The latter was too deep for the radar to accurately measure. Another surprising discovery was the composition of the liquid which was found to be a mix of methane and ethane and is similar to Titan’s second largest sea, Ligeia Mare. This opposes previous speculations which assumed Kraken Mare to be richer on ethane due to its size and extension towards lower latitudes. The findings that the liquid composition of the Kraken Mare is not starkly different from the other northern seas is crucial as it will help scientists assess models of the moon’s hydrologic system which is similar to that of Earth.

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