Does Titan Have a Subsurface Ocean?

The abstract for a recent paper on Titan says:

…We propose a new Cassini state model for Titan in which we assume the presence of a liquid water ocean beneath an ice shell and consider the gravitational and pressure torques arising between the different layers of the satellite….

Titan’s orbit, recently measured to a high degree of accuracy, looks more like an object with an ocean sloshing around than like a solid object. The story is expanded on in this blog post.

Comments

  1. #1 LarianLeQuella
    April 19, 2011

    We need mobile probes out there! Figure out how we can explore Europa, and then send something similar to Titan. Although, I wonder what other mechanisms can cause the observed effects? Does it have to be liquid water? Could it be some other fluid? Ah, the fun thing that is science!

  2. #2 Navin
    April 19, 2011

    Titan is such an amazing object for exploration, so many curiosities. It’s familiar (lakes, rainstorms, atmosphere) but so completely foreign: cryovolcanoes, water ice hard as stone, liquid methane and ethane, possible subsurface ocean, etc.

    When we finally get our public planetarium built here in Minneapolis, I’m advocating for a Titan exhibition. Call it “The Other Land of Lakes”.

  3. #3 Juice
    April 19, 2011

    LarianLeQuella,

    How would the probes be powered? Solar won’t work. An RTG is big and inefficient and would probably be way too hot to be on the surface of Titan without doing some damage. The only thing would be a battery that could work at such low temperatures. I don’t know of a battery that works at 95 K very well.

  4. #4 daedalus2u
    April 19, 2011

    juice I would use a reactor. A very low power reactor. There is no theoretical difficulty with having a very low power reactor. The first Chicago pile was only 40 watts. The amount of power produced can be selected to be anything that retains the configuration of the fissile material in a critical condition.

    You could make it a lot smaller than an RTG of the same power. 10 kw would be a good size. Then you could have enough to power all kinds of instruments. I would put the whole thing in a hot air balloon. You could have it lift off and be carried by the wind and then set down and drill to what ever depth you wanted. The crust is probably ice, so it would be easy to drill.

  5. #5 Andrew A1
    April 27, 2011

    After looking at the full blog, I have come up with the consumption that the density of liquid methane is too low to support a water-ice crust