Fourth Estate Cooperative Staff
Pasadena, CA, United States (4E) - The NASA spacecraft that probed Saturn has detected large tides on its largest moon called Titan leading scientists to believe there is an ocean of water beneath its icy surface.
The finding of the team analyzing data gathered by the Cassini-Huygens probe was published in Thursday's issue of the journal Science. The spacecraft was launched by the U.S. space agency in 1997 and reached in Saturn in 2004. The probe continues to study the planet and its moons.
According to the lead author of the study, Luciano Less from the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, they determined that the Titan's tides were 30 feet high by studying the shape of the moon in different parts of its orbit and measuring its gravity.
Aside from the data gathered by the Cassini during close flybys of the moon from 2006 to 2011 and transmitted to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif, the researchers used data gathered by NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) to determine Titan's internal structure.
"A liquid layer between the external, deformable shell and a solid mantle would enable Titan to bulge and compress as it orbits Saturn," part of the study said.
The spacecraft is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency with the JPL managing the mission as well as the DSN, an international network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and explores the universe.