The largest lake on Saturn’s largest moon Titan may be deeper than a thousand feet. Even though it’s been more than three years since NASA’s Cassini spacecraft finished orbiting Saturn (when it dove down into the planet’s atmosphere), experts are still finding valuable information from the data that it collected.
In one of Cassini’s last flybys of Titan (specifically, the 104th flyby of the moon on August 21, 2014), it was able to capture significant data of the moon’s largest lake called Kraken Mare. Based on preliminary data, it was believed that the lake was at least 115 feet deep but according to more in-depth analysis, it has been revealed that it is much deeper – at least 1,000 feet. In fact, it is so deep that the radar on board the spacecraft couldn’t probe all the way down to the bottom of the lake.
They were able to figure this out by calculating how long it took the radar signal to bounce back from the lake and by considering the type of liquid the lake is comprised of as it would absorb a portion of the energy emitted from the radar signal.
There is a mixture of methane and ethane in Kraken Mare and scientists are still optimistic that they will solve the mystery of where the liquid methane originated from because based on the fact that Titan is so far away from the sun, it should have cycled through all of its methane in 10 million years. While there is a lot of debate on the exact age of Saturn’s moons, they are certainly much older than 10 million years.
And Kraken Mare is not only deep, but massive in size as it would cover all five of North America’s Great Lakes if it was situated here on Earth. In a statement from the Cornell University Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, Valerio Poggiali, who is a research associate at the university and the lead author of the study, explained this further, “Kraken Mare … not only has a great name, but also contains about 80% of the moon's surface liquids.”
At a thousand feet deep, NASA should have no problem putting a submarine down into the depths of Kraken Mare which is currently being discussed for a future mission to Titan sometime in the next decade.
And Kraken Mare wasn’t the only lake that the spacecraft collected data on. Specifically, researchers were very interested in finding out more about Ligeia Mare and its “magic island” that continuously disappears and reappears. They were also curious about an estuary called Moray Sinus that has a depth estimated at 280 feet. The spacecraft probed the surface of the moon with a radar altimeter at a distance of about 600 miles away.
The study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets where it can be read in full.