The NASA saga Cassini mission On Saturn it is still generating valuable scientific data more than three years after its demise.
Data from the spacecraft’s last flyby Titan, A large moon with the ancestors of life chemistry, reveals that a huge lake on its surface called Kraken Mare is over 1,000 feet (300 meters) deep – that’s roughly the height of the Chrysler Building in New York City. In fact, the lake is so deep that Cassini’s radar couldn’t reach the bottom.
Back in 2014, initial data from this flight indicated this The Kraken Mare was at least 115 feet (35 meters) deep but extends even further; Newly released results show the lake is roughly 10 times deeper than that early estimate.
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The researchers said that understanding the depth and composition of Kraken Mare will gradually reveal more about the mysterious chemistry of Titan, dominated by ethane and methane that collects in ponds, lakes and rivers at the surface. The lake’s importance stems from the sheer size of the Kraken Mary; If it were placed on land, it would cover all five of the Great Lakes in North America.
“Kraken Mare … not only has a great name, it also contains about 80% of the fluids of the surface of the Moon,” said lead study author Valerio Poggiali, a research associate at the Cornell University Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences, He said in the university statement.
While Titan’s chemistry is strange compared to Earth’s chemistry, the geography of the Moon reminds us of the swampy or lake-rich regions of our planet. Titan is also the only known moon in our solar system to flaunt it Thick atmosphere A shroud of gaseous nitrogen, compared to Earth’s atmosphere, which is dominated by nitrogen and oxygen.
This distinguishes Titan from the many moons in our solar system with weak or no atmosphere (such as Earth’s moon) and from They are potentially life-friendly „ice moons“ as water ice covers an inland ocean – As is the case on Jupiter’s Europa or Saturn’s Enceladus, both of which breathe water through the ice into space.
Data were collected on the Kraken Mare during the 104 Cassini flight from Titan on August 21, 2014, about three years before the engineers. Deliberately threw the ancient spacecraft into Saturn To avoid a small chance of accidentally polluting the moon’s surface.
Kraken Mare was just one of the lakes on the mission’s survey list for that expedition. The researchers also wanted to take a look at Ligeia Mare – a mysterious location.Magic island„It appears and disappears regularly – and a smaller estuary called the Murray Sinus, which researchers have estimated is 280 feet (85 meters) deep, equivalent to the height of the Statue of Liberty. Cassini investigated the surface of the Moon with its radar altimeter from about 600 miles (965 kilometers).
Scientists have calculated the depth of the sea by knowing how long it took the radar signal to bounce off the surface of the liquid and from the sea floor, and compare the difference between these depths and take into account the composition of the lake fluid, which absorbs some of the radar signal’s energy.
The Kraken Mare Formation surprised scientists, along with its depth. It contains a mixture of methane and ethane, which differs from previous models indicating that ethane will prevail due to the size of the lake and the geographic location further away from the moon’s poles. The unexpected chemistry in the lake could help scientists better understand Titan’s rainfall cycle, according to the researchers.
Scientists also hope to find out where liquid methane came from on Titan. Titan receives about 100 times less energy from the sun than Earth, since it is about 10 times away.
With weak sunlight, Titan is converting methane in its atmosphere into ethane, but current models suggest that the moon must orbit all of the methane on its surface in just 10 million years, a fraction of its 4.5 billion-year life. Our solar system.
Engineers are working on a submarine concept, if it is funded and approved by NASA. It could take off in the 1930s for plumbing Titan Lakes. Bogiali said the newly analyzed data from Cassini could help engineers „better calibrate the sonar on board and understand the directional flows of the sea.“
A study based on the research was Posted in December, In the Journal of Geophysical Research: The Planets.
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