Scientists with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have firm evidence that the ocean within the largest moon of the planet Saturn may be as salty as the Dead Sea.
Saturn, also known for its rings, has 53 known moons and nine provisional moons, states the NASA website. Cassini, a NASA spacecraft, has been studying Titan, the largest moon of the ringed planet, for the last ten years.
Utilizing data on the planet’s gravity and topography collected during repeated flybys Cassini made over the decade, researchers presented a model structure for Titan. The study resulted in an improved understanding of the structure of the moon’s outer ice shell and the underlying conditions, according to a statement released by NASA..
The findings have been published in this week’s edition of the journal Icarus.
Researchers found that the ocean on Titan required a relatively high density to explain the gravity data. The data indicates the ocean is probably an extremely salty brine of water mixed with dissolved salts, likely a composition of sulfur, sodium and potassium. The brine density indicated would give the Titan ocean a salt content roughly equal to the saltiest bodies of water on Earth.
“This is an extremely salty ocean by Earth standards,” said Giuseppe Mitri of the University of Nantes in France, lead author of the paper, in a statement. “Knowing this may change the way we view this ocean as a possible abode for present-day life, but conditions might have been very different there in the past.”
“Titan continues to prove itself as an endlessly fascinating world, and with our long-lived Cassini spacecraft, we’re unlocking new mysteries as fast as we solve old ones,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for the Science Mission Directorate of NASA in Washington.