Cassini probe measures sea depth on Saturn's moon Titan

"Scientists think that, for the areas in which Cassini did not observe a radar echo from the seafloor, Kraken Mare might be too deep for the radar beam to penetrate," NASA officials said.
By Brooks Hays   |   Nov. 12, 2014 at 2:14 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- According to new radar measurements recorded by NASA's Cassini probe, the largest hydrocarbon sea on Saturn's moon Titan, Kraken Mare, is at least 115 feet deep -- and maybe more.

Cassini recently bounced radar off Kraken Mare's eastern shore as it circled Saturn; depths there ranged from 66 to 115 feet. But the area explored by Cassini's instruments is only a sliver of the sizable 154,000-square-mile sea, located on Titan's north pole. Researchers say there are likely deeper ravines in the center of the body of water. Kraken Mare is not like any sea on Earth; its main components are liquid ethane and methane.

"Scientists think that, for the areas in which Cassini did not observe a radar echo from the seafloor, Kraken Mare might be too deep for the radar beam to penetrate," NASA officials wrote in a news release about Cassini's latest observations. "The altimetry data for the area in and around Kraken Mare also showed relatively steep slopes leading down to the sea, which also suggests that Kraken Mare might indeed be quite deep."

Cassini-Huygens -- a partnerrship between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency -- was launched in 1997. It spent seven years traveling to Saturn, passing close by Venus and Jupiter on its way. For the last decade, Cassini has been orbiting Saturn, studying both the gas giant and many of its 62 moons. In 2004, Huygens separated from Cassini and landed on Titan to get up close and personal with the planet's largest moon. The Cassini mission is headquartered at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.

This week's depth readings come only a few days after Cassini beamed back impressive images of Titan's Kraken Mare shining in the glare of the distant sun.

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