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JPL/NASA: Underground ocean likely exists on Saturn moon

saturn titan ocean

Photo: A. Tavani/JPL/NASA

Inside Titan This artist's concept shows a possible scenario for the internal structure of Titan, as suggested by data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Scientists have been trying to determine what is under Titan's organic-rich atmosphere and icy crust. Data from the radio science experiment make the strongest case yet for a global subsurface ocean, sitting above a subsurface layer of high-pressure ice and a water-infused silicate core.

Scientists say they have strong evidence to support what they have long suspected -- that Saturn's largest moon harbors a subsurface ocean. 

If confirmed, Titan would join a short list of bodies in the solar system with liquid water essential for life. However, the presence of liquid water itself does not necessarily indicate life, according to researchers at NASA's Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Scientists think life is more likely to arise when liquid water is in contact with rock, and these measurements cannot tell whether the ocean bottom is made up of rock or ice. The results have a bigger implication for the mystery of methane replenishment on Titan.

JPL researchers say their findings -- that 100 kilometers beneath the gassy/icy surface likely exists an ocean -- came from data collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The discovery was published in the June 29 issue of Science.


Closing arguments in NASA JPL/intelligent design termination case

Intelligent Design

Nick Ut/AP

In this March 7, 2012 photo, David Coppedge, left, is shown outside Los Angeles Superior Court with his attorney, William Becker. Coppedge, a mission specialist who claims he was demoted - and then let go - by Jet Propulsion Laboratory for his workplace comments promoting his views on intelligent design, the belief that a higher power must have had a hand in creation because life is too complex to have developed through evolution alone.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory denies allegations that David Coppedge's employment as a lab specialist was terminated because of his belief in intelligent design. Closing arguments in the wrongful termination case are set to begin in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday.

The computer specialist — who worked for 15 years on the Cassini mission exploring Saturn and its moons — was let go last year. 

He says he was discriminated against for engaging co-workers in conversations about intelligent design, and for handing out related DVDs at work.

Intelligent design is a type of creationism that rejects evolution as the sole basis for life's origins believing instead that nature is too complex to have evolved without a higher-power based plan.