One of the most important goals of interplanetary exploration is the discovery of life beyond Earth. As far as scientists today know, all life requires as a prerequisite the presence of liquid water. This Thursday, researchers announced the discovery of the strongest evidence yet for vast stores of liquid water on an alien surface. That surface belongs to Saturn’s largest and most intriguing moon – Titan.
The Cassini-Huygens mission provided the first data points for this conclusion in 2005. Mathematical modeling and electric field measurements taken by the Huygens probe suggest that Titan contains a hidden liquid layer. The evidence is indirect, but scientists at France's University of Nantes who have been working with the Cassini-Huygens data for over seven years say they’ve found the strongest indications of liquid water that can be obtained without physically drilling into Titan’s crust.
“If the analysis is correct, this is a very important finding,” said Dr. Gabriel Tobie.
The new research was released online by the journal Science. Previous estimates place the size of the Titanic ocean at around 30-60 miles deep. Researchers familiar with the Huygens data say that the waters may also contain traces of ammonia.
If these findings prove out, scientists say Titan will jump to the top of the list of places in the solar system that may be hospitable to microbial life.