The methane sea of ​​Titan (Saturn’s moon) will be explored

Isbel Lázaro.
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mar de metano de Titán

Just beneath a gaseous atmosphere lies the Kraken Mare, the sea of ​​liquid methane of Titan (Saturn’s largest moon). Astronomers at Cornell University have estimated that this sea is at least 300 meters deep in its central part, which would be enough to allow exploration by a potential robotic submarine.

Although the depth and composition of several seas on Titan were already known, the Kraken Mare, which contains approximately 80% of the moon’s surface liquids, stood out for being the largest.

Titan, located about 1,300 million km from Earth, is surrounded by an atmosphere composed mainly of nitrogen gas. Despite this, when observed through the clouds, its landscape presents similarities with Earth, with rivers, lakes and seas of liquid methane .

What is hidden in Titan’s sea of ​​methane?

The data for this discovery were collected during the Cassini T104 mission’s flyby of Titan in August 2014. During this flight, the spacecraft’s radar scanned Ligeia Mare, a smaller sea in the region of the north pole of the moon, with the aim of searching for the enigmatic “Isola Mágica”, which has the peculiarity of disappearing and reappearing . As Cassini explored this area, it used its radar altimeter to measure the depth of Kraken Mare.

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Surprisingly, the composition of the liquid in Kraken Mare was found to be dominated by methane and was very similar to the composition of nearby Ligeia Mare, the second largest sea in the region. Titan is presented as a model of a possible early Earth atmosphere ; However, the enigma lies in the origin of liquid methane.

Although sunlight on Titan continually transforms atmospheric methane into ethane, which would deplete all surface reserves in about 10 million years, this discovery will help scientists better understand the density of the liquid, a valuable detail for the development of a future submarine destined to explore the depths of Kraken Mare.

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