As if it’s not already cool enough with its methane lakes, Grand Canyon-like geological features and status as the only moon in the Solar System with a thick atmosphere, Saturn’s moon Titan may now have yet another thing to show off about: NASA thinks that lying underneath its surface is a huge ocean of water and methane.
OK, it may be 63 miles below the surface, but the possibility of an ocean on Titan really is exciting, especially as it is thought to contain H2O – water. As we all know, water equals life and although Titan probably isn’t home to ET, the fact that another body in our Solar System has liquid water brings us increasingly closer to discovering life outside Earth.
But wait a minute… if the ocean is underground, and above the ground there is a dense, opaque atmosphere, how can we tell that there is an underground ocean? After all, as it’s 63 miles below ground you could hardly drill down into it.
Basically, it all began when a strange discovery started puzzling scientists: they were using radar on the Cassini probe to track the locations of various landmarks on Titan’s surface, but they found that the landmarks were moving between each flyby of Cassini. It could have been down to winds, but they would have had to be incredibly strong since some of the landmarks moved an amazing 20 miles.
The only plausible theory seems to be that the whole surface of Titan is floating on one massive ocean, and as currents in the ocean move the overlying land along, the landmarks move.
I’ve said many times before how amazing the Cassini mission to Saturn and its moons has been – take the recent flyby through the icy geysers of Saturn’s moon Enceladus for example. The great news is that NASA has decided to extend Cassini’s mission beyond its original scheduled finish this summer, meaning we’ll be discovering a whole load more weird and wonderful things about the ringed planet and its companions in the years to come. Go Cassini!