Scientists have suspected that a vast ocean of water lies underneath the crust of Saturn’s moon Titan. New analysis that the heat that keeps the that ocean from freezing relies on the moon interacts with Saturn’s other moons. New analysis gravity and data from Titan indacates that Titan’s icy crust is twice as thick as has generally thought. Scientists have suspected that there lies a vast of oceanof liquid water lies under Titan’s crust.
Nasa’s spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn since 2004. They have been studying the topography of Titan and has combined the measurements of the moon’s surface with new realesed gravity measurements to make the new analysis. Titan has long intrigued scientists because of it’s similarities to Earth. Like earth, Titan appears to have a layered structure crudely similar to the concentric layers of an onion. Titan has a core with a mixture of ice and rock. The core is overlain by the ocean and icy crust.
The rock in Titan’s core is thought to contain radioactive elements left over from the formation of the Solar System. As in Earth’s core, when those elements decay, they generate heat. In Titan’s core that heat is crucial to keeping it’s ocean from freezing solid. As Titan orbits Saturn, Titan is slowly spinnig on it’s axis, one spin for each trip around Saturn. That spin is enough for the gravity instrument onboard Cassini to measure the resistance of Titan to any changes on it’s spin- also called the moment of inertia. The moment of inertia depends on the thickness of the layers of material within Titan.
Titan’s crust is aproximately 100 kilometers thick. If there is more ice, then there should be less heat from the core than had been estimated. Titan is not a true sphere. It’s shape is disorted by the gravatational pull of saturn, making sort of oblong along the equator and a little flattened at the poles.
The variation in the shape of the orbit, along with Titan’s slightly desorted shape, means that there are some flexure within the moon as it orbits Saturn.
The Cassini mission was recently given funding to continue operating through 2017, which means about five more years of data will be acquired that can contribute to further refinements of Titan.
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