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The sea of ​​methane on Saturn's moon Titan can be over 1,000 feet deep

The sea of ​​methane on Saturn’s moon Titan can be over 1,000 feet deep

Mosaic of false color Titan's polar regions.  Kraken Mare is a dark spot to the right of center.

Mosaic of false color Titan’s polar regions. Kraken Mare is a dark spot to the right of center.
picture: NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory- California Institute of Technology / University of Arizona / University of Idaho

Data collected by NASA’s Cassini probe allowed scientists to estimate the depth of the Kraken Mare – the largest sea of ​​methane. On the moon of Saturn Titan.

new Research It was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research and expands our knowledge of Titan’s hydrocarbon seas, specifically Kraken Mare. This sea It is approximately 600 miles (1,000 km) longIt is larger than the Five Great Lakes in North America combined and contains about 80% of the lunar surface fluids. Titan seas contain a lot of methane and ethane And comparable to LNG on Earth.

Titan is the only moon in the solar system Known for hosting atmospheres. The thick, nitrogen-rich blanket covering the moon hides an intricate hydraulic system on the surface, but instead of liquid water, rivers, lakes and seas on Titan consist of oily black methane. Titan has another curiosity too, like Giant dust stormsAnd the Ice volcanoesAnd enormous Sand dunes.

As new research shows, the deeper parts of the Kraken Mare could be over 1000 feet (300 meters) deep. THis team, led by Valerio Bogiali, is a research associate at the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary SciencesI can’t verify this number. Because the radar sounds used to determine the depth of the sea have not actually reached the sea floor.

Fake color photo of Kraken Mare.

Fake color photo of Kraken Mare.
picture: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Italian Space Agency / USGS

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft O.rbited Saturn from From 2004 to 2017, And the Scientists already He studied some of the smaller seas on Titan Using Cassini’s onboard aM. aOn August 21, 2014, Cassini flew 600 miles (970 km) from Titan Surface and managed to send radar Sounds in Kraken Mary. Interestingly, this is the same flyby that led to the discovery of Ligeia Mare-a The “magic” island disappears On Titan.

Researchers at Cornell and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have devised an accurate technique for determining the depth of Titan’s seas, which involves measuring differences between the time it takes for radar to bounce off the sea surface versus the sea floor. This technique helps in estimating the depth of the sea. But researchers have to make certain assumptions about Titan’s fluid density and how quickly radio waves would pass through it.

Using this technique, the team measured the depth of the Murray Sinus, a northern estuary at the Kraken Marie, and found it to be 280 feet. (85 meters). The radar wave absorption rate indicates that the liquid in this part of the sea is composed of 70% methane, 16% nitrogen and 14% ethane. Scientists had expected more methane than this due to the size and location of the sea, but this finding indicates a more uniform distribution of chemicals across the moon’s different water bodies.

Altimeter scans made across the main body of the Kraken Mare were less accurate. As the authors write in the study, NASA’s probe “found no evidence of returning signals from the sea floor, indicating that the fluid is either too deep or too absorbent to penetrate Cassini radio waves.” However, if the fluid in this part of the sea is similar in composition to the fluid found in Moray Sinus, it must be deeper than 330 feet (100 meters). It may be 1,000 feet (300 meters) deep, according to the study.

Bogiali hopes that one day a robotic submarine will be sent to Titan to explore the Kraken Mare or some other body of water. In fact, he sees the new research as a step in this direction.

“Thanks to our measurements, scientists can now infer the density of the liquid with higher accuracy, and thus better calibrate the on-board sonar [future robotic submarine] “Understanding sea directional flows” explained Bogiali at Cornell University. statement.

a Concept plan From 2015 what such a task might look like, but nothing has been approved in this regard. However, NASA will send an unmanned aircraft, called dragonfly, To Titan, which is supposed to reach the moon sometime in the mid-1930s.

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