Image: A Cassini view of Titan, with Kraken Mare, a sea of liquid hydrocarbons, visible at the top of the image. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 14, 2011 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 938 nanometers. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.2 million miles (1.9 million kilometers) from Titan and at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 26 degrees. Image scale is 7 miles (12 kilometers) per pixel. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Titan: A Vast, Subsurface Ocean?


Yesterday’s look at a major river on Titan took on a decidedly science fictional cast, but then Titan has always encouraged writers to speculate. Asimov’s “First Law” (1956) tackles a storm on Titan as a way of dealing with the Three Laws of Robotics. Arthur C. Clarke filled Titan with a large human colony in Imperial Earth (1976), and Kim Stanley Robinson used Titanian nitrogen in his books on the terraforming of Mars. As far back as 1935, Stanley G. Weinbaum was writing about a frozen Titan and the struggles of early explorers on that world.

The list could go on, but right now the focus stays on Cassini, which with funding continued through 2017 will continue to give us new and striking discoveries like the river dubbed the moon’s ‘little Nile’ feeding into Ligeia Mare. Nor do I want to ignore the recent work from Howard Zebker (Stanford University) and team, who have been working with Cassini radar data and new gravity measurements to tell us more about the internal structure of Titan and its shape. The idea that Titan boasts a deep subsurface ocean is consistent with the results in this study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union earlier this month.

Read more: Titan: A Vast, Subsurface Ocean? — Centauri Dreams.

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