Saturn’s largest of the 82 moons, Titan’s biggest water body is more than 1,000 feet deep near its centre. The Kraken Mare is so deep that its exact depth could not be measured. The new findings were obtained from the data collected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Cassini mission. Seven years ago, it was believed that the depth of the extraterrestrial lake was 115 feet at least.
“The depth and composition of each of Titan’s seas had already been measured, except for Titan’’s largest sea, Kraken Mare, which not only has a great name, but also contains about 80% of the moon’s surface liquids,” said lead author Valerio Poggiali, a research associate at the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science (CCAPS).
As a result of the new findings of the mystery moon, researchers believe that they can send a robotic submarine to Kraken Mare. The mission is subjected to be funded and approved by NASA. But, if it happens, by the end of the decade we will be poised to know more about Saturn’s fascinating moon.
“Thanks to our measurements, scientists can now infer the density of the liquid with higher precision, and consequently better calibrate the sonar aboard the vessel and understand the sea’s directional flow,” said Poggiali.
The measurement was done using echoes of radar waves sent by the Cassini spacecraft from 965 km above Moray Sinus, an estuary located at the sea’s northern end. The depth was calculated using the time it took for the radar signal to bounce back from the liquid surface of the water body and its bottom. The difference between the two was calculated keeping the factors like the composition of the lake’s liquid into account as it absorbs the energy of the signal.
Also, scientists were surprised by the composition of the lake which was previously believed to be mostly ethane given the lake’s size and location. However, the new research unveils that it is a mix of methane and ethane. Researchers believe that this may help them understand the precipitation cycle on the moon as well.
They also hope to find out in the future the origins of liquid methane on Titan despite being 100 times less energy than Earth and being 10 times away from it.