Monday, July 2, 2012

Saturn moon likely contains liquid water

Water is not very exciting on Earth, but when we find it in space, it is big news. NASA is currently exploring water content on Mars, and have just launched a new spacecraft to investigate The Red Planet, but have lately shifted their attention to somewhere else. According to measurements from the Cassini spacecraft, Saturn's moon Titan may have a liquid ocean of water beneath the surface.

The NASA scientists claim that presence of water is an almost 'inescapable conclusion' of their measurements. In fact, layers beneath the surface are likely to contain an abundant amount of the liquid stuff, in huge subterranean oceans. It is not yet clear whether this makes life possible on Titan. The NASA scientists note that life thrives when water comes into contact with rock, and it is not yet clear what the ocean bottom consists of, warranting further research.

Besides looking for life, there are little interesting bits to learn from the research on Titan. Because the moon is rich in methane, which on Earth is notorious for being a greenhouse gas, NASA figures it can learn how the subterranean oceans aid in storing methane: Titan is special because it contains a lot of methane, which likely is stored in large contents beneath its surface. However, the search for life is of course much more spectacular.

While these findings do not have any direct implications, it is good to see water being found elsewhere in our solar system, despite the fact it has not yet been fully proven. Water is needed for life as we know it, and the findings of oceans beneath the surface therefore result in Titan transforming into an interesting object to study.
An artist overview of the internal layers of Titan.

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