Saturn Moon Titan Weird Characteristics Baffling the Scientists
The rigid icy shell of Saturn's largest moon Titan is apparently more massive and extensive than previously thought, U.S. researchers say.
According to a news release from the University of California at Santa Cruz, Space probe data hints Titan possess an extraordinarily bizarre interior with large roots extending into an underlying ocean.
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According to NASA, Titan appears like a frozen version of Earth before life began adding oxygen into our atmosphere. Astronomers are fascinated by the moon because it contains an active atmosphere and complex Earth-like processes that form its surface.
Researchers aim to explore this underground ocean in the hopes of finding alien life on Titan.
The research utilized gravity and topography data obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. UC Santa Cruz researchers were amazed to find a counter-intuitive relationship between gravity and topography signals on Titan, Cassini team scientists said.
"Normally, if you fly over a mountain, you expect to see an increase in gravity due to the extra mass of the mountain," Francis Nimmo at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said. "On Titan, when you fly over a mountain, the gravity gets lower. That's a very odd observation."
According to the model created by researchers, each bump in the topography on the surface of Titan is counterbalanced by a deeper "root" extending below the ice shell into the ocean underneath, large enough to engulf the gravitational effect of the bump on the surface. Therefore, Cassini would detect less gravity wherever there is a big chunk of ice rather than water because ice is less dense than water, Nimmo explained.
"It's like a big beach ball under the ice sheet pushing up on it, and the only way to keep it submerged is if the ice sheet is strong," lead study author Douglas Hemingway, also at UC Santa Cruz, said. "If large roots under the ice shell are the explanation, this means that Titan's ice shell must have a very thick rigid layer."
The study's findings are published in the journal Nature.