9:56 pm - Tuesday November 3, 2015

Titan could have own Dead Sea

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The ocean inside one of Saturn’s moons could be as salty as the Dead Sea, NASA scientists have found.

The data comes from the Cassini space probe’s repeated flybys of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, over the past 10 years.

The findings are published in this week’s edition of the journal Icarus.

“Titan continues to prove itself as an endlessly fascinating world, and with our long-lived Cassini spacecraft, we’re unlocking new mysteries as fast as we solve old ones,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, who was not involved in the study.

More findings also support previous suggestions that Titan’s icy shell is rigid and in the process of freezing solid.

“Researchers found that a relatively high density was required for Titan’s ocean in order to explain the gravity data. This indicates the ocean is probably an extremely salty brine of water mixed with dissolved salts likely composed of sulphur, sodium and potassium,” NASA said in a statement.

The agency concluded that the density shown for this water would give the ocean a salt content roughly equivalent to the saltiest bodies of water on Earth.

“This is an extremely salty ocean by Earth standards,” said the paper’s lead author, Giuseppe Mitri of the University of Nantes in France.

“Knowing this may change the way we view this ocean as a possible abode for present-day life, but conditions might have been very different there in the past.”

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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