An analysis of data sent by NASA's Cassini mission to Titan suggests that the ocean inside the Saturn's largest moon may be as salty as the Dead Sea here on Earth.
The new results come from a study of gravity and topography data collected during Cassini's repeated flybys of Titan during the past 10 years.
Researchers found that a relatively high density was required for Titan's ocean in order to explain the gravity data, which indicated that the ocean is probably an extremely salty brine of water mixed with dissolved salts likely composed of sulfur, sodium and potassium. The density indicated for this brine would give the ocean a salt content roughly equal to the saltiest bodies of water on Earth.
Giuseppe Mitri of the University of Nantes in France said that this is an extremely salty ocean by Earth standards and knowing this may change the way they viewed this ocean as a possible abode for present-day life, but conditions might have been very different there in the past.
Cassini data also indicated that the thickness of Titan's ice crust varies slightly from place to place.
Jonathan Lunine, a scientist on the Cassini mission at Cornell University said that their work suggested looking for signs of methane outgassing will be difficult with Cassini and might require a future mission that can find localized methane sources.
The study is published in the journal Icarus.