Scientists Recreate Titan's Icy Ocean To Test Outer Space Submarine

Posted: Feb 9 2018, 4:31am CST | by , Updated: Feb 9 2018, 4:37am CST, in Latest Science News


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Scientists Recreate Titan's Ocean to Test Outer Space Submarine
Credit: NASA

NASA plans to launch a submarine into Titan seas in the next 20 years.

Researchers are testing an unmanned submarine that could one day be used to explore oceans on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Apart from Earth, Titan is the only place in our solar system known to have liquid lakes and seas on its surface. The presence of liquid also makes this moon a prime candidate for searching life beyond Earth. However, unlike Earth seas and lakes on Titan are composed of methane and ethane, not water. Moreover, temperatures on Titan can drop to -300 Fahrenheit and this frigid surface temperature is something we do not experience on Earth.

Since Titan could be a habitable place, NASA is planning to send a marine into its seas in the next 20 years. The submarine will be operated autonomously and will actually move around seafloor and hover at or below the surface. But under extreme conditions it could be tricky thing to do.

To tackle the problem, a team of researchers from Washington State University has re-created the atmosphere of Titan and tested how a submarine powered by a heat-producing machine might work under extreme cold conditions on Titan.

"My research just took a right turn, and I went with it," said Ian Richardson, a researcher involved in the project. "It's a crazy experiment, and I never thought I would have had this opportunity. It's been a very fun and challenging experimental design problem."

The team built a test chamber that simulates the very cold temperatures of Titan and the seas on its surface. Then, they added a two-inch, cylinder-shaped cartridge heater in to it. The machine generates the same amount of heat that a submarine would create. Researchers also used an optical device called borescope and video camera that helped them record what was going on within the test chamber.

The findings will allow researchers to design a submerine that could withstand the fluctuations in temperatures and pressures under Titan conditions.

“This work investigates the solubility of nitrogen in varying liquid methane-ethane compositions and the effects of dissolved nitrogen on the density of the sea,” authors wrote in the study.

“These measurements are being used to aid in thermodynamic modeling of the Titan seas as well as the design of the Titan Submarine.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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