Earth’s oceans are extremely unexplored, and stand as a monument to the difficulty of underwater exploration. But they are not the only unexplored seas in the solar system. Titan’s vast collection of liquid methane lakes is another challenge facing future solar system explorers.
A submarine mission to Saturn’s largest moon has long been under discussion. More recently, scientists have discovered that if such a mission was ever launched, it would have plenty of space to operate, since Titan’s largest sea is likely to be more than 300 meters (1000 ft) deep .
The sea, which was named the Kraken Mare, was the subject of a recent study by Cornell and his colleagues, the lead author Valerio Poggiali, because the mouth at the northern end of the sea was not named Moray Sinus. He analyzed data from one of Cassini’s last fly-bys of Titan in August of 2014. That data included radar measurements of the Kraken mare and is the estuary.
The elevation from sea surface to its bottom was calculated using the time difference in those radar signals. Additionally, the percentage of signal that was returned to Cassini was used to determine the baseline understanding of ocean composition.
The radar signal was not actually able to penetrate all the way to the depths of the central Kraken mare, meaning that the ocean was deeper than the expected 1000 meter range and scientists estimated the effective distance to penetrate the radar signal Was able Given that the sea is the size of all five great lakes combined, it is not particularly surprising that Cassini could not find the ocean floor. However, it was able to reach the depth of the Morey sinus, which was about 85 meters (280 ft) deep.
Furthermore, the signal attenuation they found is somewhat unexpected: the crackane mer is actually made of more methane than ethane. Scientists were expected to dominate the ocean, largely because of its size and equatoriality. In fact, the composition of the Kraken Ghora, with methane major hydrology, is similar to other small lakes in the region.
All this data analysis and hypothesis development can feed right into the development process of future submarine missions for any of the solar system’s largest moons. However, there will be many considerations that go into the design of any future mission, now it is clear that no matter the size of the craft, there will be plenty of space to work in the foreign seas designed for it.
Cornell: Astronomers estimate that Titan’s largest sea is 1,000 feet deep
UT: Wow. Lakes on Titan may cause craters from massive underground explosions
UT: How impressive is the Titanic? NASA is sending Titan Dragonfly helicopter to locate
Lead Image: Artist rendering of Kraken Mare.
Sincerely: NASA / John Glenn Research Center