TIME astronomy

The Ocean on Saturn’s Moon Is as Salty as the Dead Sea

Titan's ice shell is believed to cover a very salty ocean. NASA/JPL/SSI/Univ. of Arizona/G. Mitri/University of Nantes

The level of salt in Titan's ocean may mean we have to rethink the chance of present-day life on Saturn's largest moon.

Scientists say the ocean within Saturn’s largest moon may be as salty as the Dead Sea.

A new analysis of data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which has been studying Saturn’s moon Titan for the last ten years, allowed researchers to create a model structure for Titan, including its icy shell and the ocean of water and other minerals that lies beneath.

Based on Titan’s gravity, they determined that the moon’s ocean must be relatively dense. That suggests it contains a large a portion of salts–likely composed of sulfur, sodium and potassium–on par with Earth’s saltiest bodies of waters. Sadly, no taste test was involved. The latest findings about Titan were published in this week’s edition of the journal Icarus.

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

 

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