Cassini flybys probe the depths of Titan's methane sea

As Cassini makes the ultimate rounds of Saturn on its roughly 20-yr mission, the spacecraft has maneuvered into place over Titan to discover Ligeia Mare, the second-largest methane sea on the planet’s largest moon.

Whereas Cassini has flown over Ligeia Mare earlier than, the newest research from a French analysis group revealed within the Journal of Geophysical Analysis: Planets confirms what earlier passes steered again in 2014: that “this sea is predominantly product of pure methane.” Combining this knowledge with earlier radar probes of the ocean’s depth, the French workforce concluded that the ocean is probably going fed by “recent methane rainfall” and its sea flooring is “coated by a sludge layer of natural-wealthy compounds.”

This is extra from NASA:

Within the environment of Titan, nitrogen and methane react to supply all kinds of natural supplies. Scientists consider the heaviest supplies fall to the floor. [Study author Alice] Le Gall and colleagues assume that when these compounds attain the ocean, both by instantly falling from the air, by way of rain or by way of Titan’s rivers, some are dissolved within the liquid methane. The insoluble compounds, similar to nitriles and benzene, sink to the ocean flooring.

Ligeia Mare is concerning the measurement of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron mixed, and people radar probes from 2013 created an in depth topographic map of Titan that marked the primary time the human race ever discovered the underside of an extraterrestrial sea. “It is a marvelous feat of exploration that we’re doing extraterrestrial oceanography on an alien moon,” Steve Wall, the deputy radar lead for Cassini at NASA/JPL defined. “Titan simply will not cease shocking us.”

These radar probes additionally made for a nifty 3D-rendered flyby of the moon’s floor. Observe:

Cassini itself has about forty extra laps round Saturn on its 2016-2017 farewell tour. After spending roughly half that point exploring Titan, Cassini will transfer into place contained in the planet’s innermost rings, earlier than it will definitely burns up within the planet’s environment round September fifteenth, 2017. In the meantime, Cassini’s little buddy, the ESA’s Huygens lander, was left behind on Titan again in 2005. The probe managed to ship again knowledge for about ninety minutes after making probably the most distant touchdown ever achieved.

Supply: NASA