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Saturn’s moon Titan has long been thought to possibly hold life in the oceans underneath its outer icy shell, but new data shows the shell is thicker than originally believed.
Discovery News reports that new data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show the outer shell of Titan is quite a bit thicker than hoped. After seeing the new data about Titan’s gravity measurements, there is less hope for life in the oceans underneath the ice.
Though the oceans are not of water, but rather methane and liquid ethane, there was still hope for life. Unfortunately, “The ice is much stronger than anyone expected,” Doug Hemingway, a planetary sciences doctoral student from the University of California Santa Cruz told Discovery.
The ice is 10 times thicker than expected as it's 62 miles thick. Measurements from the Cassini spacecraft show higher elevation areas have weaker gravity fields than lower-lying ones, which would mean that the ice shell is highly eroded and rigid.
Initially the scientists thought they had the findings backwards Hemingway commented to Space.com. “It was very surprising to see that.”
The rigidity of the icy shell, means that Titan is less geologically active, making it less Earth-like.
According to Discovery News, Francis Nimmo, a planetary scientist at UCSC said, “The surface looks really very like the Earth … but at the same time, it’s not geologically active in the same way that the Earth is. On Earth you are continually building up mountains and then you’re carving them away with erosion.”
“On Titan, you have the erosion and the weather, but I don’t think you have mountain-building in quite the same way. It’s a very odd combination.”
image: Wikimedia Commons