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Giant ocean found on Saturn's moon

Saturday June 30, 2012 10:18:33 AM, RIA Novosti

Moscow: Around 100 km beneath the rocky crust on Saturn's largest moon Titan is an ocean of water spanning the entirety of the celestial body, scientists said.

The ocean was hypothesised in 2011, based on Titan's rotation and orbital movement.

The theory was confirmed by a study based on data from the Cassini-Huygens probe, published in Science magazine.

The ocean theory implied that Titan is becoming slightly deformed by Saturn's gravity when it nears the planet, something that would not have happened if Titan were completely solid.

A team headed by Italian researcher Luciano Iess studied the influence of Titan's gravity on the probe during numerous fly-bys and discovered that the moon's gravity slightly varied, in line with the ocean theory.

The ocean is probably saturated with ammonia or its sulfate and cold, unlike on Jupiter's moon Europa, whose underground waters are heated by geysers, the report said.

This, along with the lack of minerals, makes Titan's currently nameless ocean an unlikely place to produce life, the study said.

However, other studies indicate that some bacteria are capable of surviving in extreme environments, and even propose the possibility of life based on different biochemistry than on Earth, including arsenic.

Titan, one of Saturn's 13 major moons, was discovered in 1655 by Christiaan Huygens, but its study is complicated by its dense atmosphere.

The Hyugens unmanned probe, delivered by the Cassini mission dispatched in 1997 to study Saturn, successfully landed on Titan in 2005, becoming the most distant landing of manmade spacecraft in history. It transmitted data for about 90 minutes after touchdown.









 

 

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