Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cassini images of Enceladus suggest geysers erupt liquid water at the moon’s south pole

13.03.2006


Images returned from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have yielded evidence that the geologically young south polar region of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus may possess reservoirs of near-surface liquid water that erupt to form geysers of the kind found in Yellowstone National Park.




This finding and others are being reported today by the Cassini Imaging Science Team in the journal Science.

"We realize that this is a radical conclusion – that we may have evidence for liquid water within a body so small and so cold," said Dr. Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and the lead author of the Science report. "However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms. It doesn’t get any more exciting than this."


High resolution Cassini images showing the icy jets, and the towering plume they create, reveal the abundance of the constituent particles and the speed at which they are being ejected from Enceladus. These results indicate that there are far too many particles being released from the south pole of Enceladus for the source to be merely frozen mist condensing out of a plume of water vapor, or particles that have been blown off Enceladus by jets of water vapor arising from warm ice. Instead, they have found a much more exciting possibility: the jets may be erupting from near-surface pockets of liquid water above 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), like cold versions of the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone.

"There are other moons in the solar system that have liquid water oceans covered by kilometers of icy crust," said Dr. Andrew Ingersoll, an atmospheric scientist and a co-author on the paper in Science. "What’s different here is that pockets of liquid water may be no more than ten meters below the surface."

In the near-vacuum conditions at the moon’s surface, liquid water would boil away into space, erupting forcefully into the void and carrying particles of ice and liquid water along with the vapor. Analysis of the jets and plumes indicate that most of the particles eventually fall back to the surface, giving the moon’s south pole its extremely bright veneer. Those that escape the moon’s gravity go into orbit around Saturn, forming the E ring.

Cassini images have revealed the geology of Enceladus in startling detail, including relaxed craters and extensive surface cracks and folds. Imaging scientists report that the moon has undergone geologic activity over the last four and half billion years up to the present, with the active south pole being the only place where liquid water may currently exists near the surface. Telltale geologic features throughout the southern hemisphere of Enceladus also point to a change in the body’s shape with time. Scientists believe these to be related to an episode of intense heating in the moon’s past that may, in turn, explain the anomalous warmth and current activity in the south polar region.

The sources of this warmth are a major puzzle. Some combination of tidal flexing and heating of the interior by naturally radioactive material may provide the heat to power the geysers, which almost certainly erupt from the narrow, warm fractures, called ’tiger stripes,’ seen crossing Enceladus’ south polar region. However, obtaining enough energy to reproduce the observed heat emanating from the south pole is still a problem.

Dr. Torrence Johnson, a satellite expert at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and a co-author, notes: "Active water geysers on little Enceladus are a major surprise. We’re still puzzled about the details and energy sources, but what’s exciting is that Enceladus obviously figured out how to do it. Now it’s up to us to crack the mystery."

Preston Dyches | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ciclops.org
http://www.spacescience.org

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling
29.03.2017 | New Jersey Institute of Technology

nachricht NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts
28.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>