Using radar measurements of the moon’s rotation, scientists believe the Cassini spacecraft has found evidence of an underground ocean on Titan, consisting of water and ammonia.

Titan cutaway

Artist’s impression of a cutaway view of Titan

Fifty unique landmarks on Titan were tracked over a period of 19 separate flybys by Cassini between October 2005 and May 2007. These prominent surface features were found to have shifted from their expected locations by up to 30 km (19 mi). If Titans’ icy crust is decoupled from its core by an internal ocean, then the shift makes sense. The ocean is believed to be 100 km (62 mi) below the crust of Titan.

A paper detailing these findings will be published March 21 in the journal Science.

Titan is of great interest because it has an organic-rich environment with the possibility of liquid water and an atmosphere 1.5 times denser than Earth’s. This may correlate to conditions on Earth which preceded the formation of living organisms.

Another flyby of Titan will occur on March 25 that will analyze Titan’s upper atmosphere and take pictures of the moon’s southeast quadrant.

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