Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Saturn’s A Ring has oxygen, but not life

25.02.2005


Data from the Cassini-Huygens satellite showing oxygen ions in the atmosphere around Saturn’s rings suggests once again that molecular oxygen alone isn’t a reliable indicator of whether a planet can support life.



That and other data are outlined in two papers in the Feb. 25 issue of the journal Science co-authored by University of Michigan engineering professors Tamas Gombosi, J. Hunter Waite and Kenneth Hansen; and T.E. Cravens from the University of Kansas. The papers belong to a series of publications on data collected by Cassini as it passed through the rings of Saturn on July 1.

Molecular oxygen forms when two oxygen atoms bond together and is known in chemical shorthand as O2. On Earth, it is a continual byproduct of plant respiration, and animals need this oxygen for life. But in Saturn’s atmosphere, molecular oxygen was created without life present, through a chemical reaction with the sun’s radiation and icy particles that comprise Saturn’s rings. "That means you don’t need biology to produce an O2 atmosphere," Waite said. "If we want indicators to use in the search for life on other planets, we need to know what to look for. But oxygen alone isn’t it."


Because Saturn’s rings are made of water ice, one would expect to find atoms derived from water, such as atomic oxygen (one atom) rather than O2, Waite said. However, the paper, called "Oxygen Ions Observed Near Saturn’s A Ring," suggests the formation of molecular oxygen atmospheres happens more often in the outer solar system than expected. There is earlier evidence of molecular oxygen atmospheres elsewhere in the solar system---for instance above the icy Galilean moons of Jupiter---he said.

Four U-M College of Engineering faculty members are involved in the Cassini mission to explore Saturn’s rings and some of its moons. Waite leads the team operating the ion and neutral mass spectrometer, the instrument that detected and measured the molecular oxygen ions. Other team members are J.G. Luhmann of the University of California, Berkeley; R.V. Yelle, of the University of Arizona, Tuscon; W.T. Kasprzak, of the Goddard Space Flight Center; R.L. McNutt of Johns Hopkins University; and W.H. Ip, of the National Central University, Taiwan.

A second, viewpoint paper called, "Saturn’s Variable Magnetosphere," by Hansen and Gombosi, who is chair of the College of Engineering’s department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, reviews key findings from the other Cassini teams, including new information that contradicts data gathered 25 years ago, when the space craft Voyager passed by the planet.

Mary Nehls-Frumkin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers
24.01.2017 | Institut national de la recherche scientifique - INRS

nachricht European XFEL prepares for user operation: Researchers can hand in first proposals for experiments
24.01.2017 | European XFEL GmbH

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>