Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Salty ocean in the depths of Enceladus

26.06.2009
Discovery could have implications for the search for extraterrestrial life

An enormous plume of water spurts in giant jets from the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus. In a report published in the international science journal Nature today (25 June), European researchers provide evidence that this magnificent plume is fed by a salty ocean.

The discovery could have implications for the search for extraterrestrial life as well as our understanding of how planetary moons are formed.

The Cassini spacecraft made a surprising discovery about Saturn's sixth largest moon, Enceladus, on its exploration of the giant ringed planet in 2005. Enceladus ejects water vapour, gas and tiny grains of ice into space hundreds of kilometres above the moon's surface.

Enceladus orbits in Saturn's outermost "E" ring. It is one of only three outer solar system bodies that produce active eruptions of dust and vapour. Moreover, aside from the Earth, Mars, and Jupiter's moon Europa, it is one of the only places in the solar system for which astronomers have direct evidence of the presence of water.

New understanding of how this plume is produced was revealed in Nature in 2008 by Juergen Schmidt of the University of Potsdam, Germany, and Nikolai Brilliantov of the University of Leicester, and colleagues. They explained how the water vapour jets are blasted out much faster than the dust particles. To work their theory required that Enceladus has an ocean of liquid water below its surface. The same team, working with Frank Postberg of the University of Heidelberg and the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, in Heidelberg, has now found the direct experimental evidence for the presence of this ocean, which was previously lacking.

Current theories of satellite formation suggest that should a moon have a deep liquid ocean in contact with the body's rocky core, for many millions of years, then it should be a salty ocean.

The team now reports the detection of sodium salts among the dust ejected in the Enceladus plume. Postberg and colleagues have studied data from the Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) onboard the Cassini spacecraft and have combined this data with laboratory experiments. They have shown that the icy grains in the Enceladus plume contain substantial quantities of sodium salts, hinting at the salty ocean deep below.

The theory, proposed by Brilliantov and Schmidt has allowed the team to relate the detected salt in the CDA with the likely concentration in the water vapour above the ocean, which proves the consistency of the experimental data. The results of the study imply that the concentration of sodium chloride in the ocean can be as high as that of Earth's oceans and is about 0.1-0.3 moles of salt per kilogram of water.

NOTE TO NEWSDESK:

The content of the press release and papers is embargoed until 1800 hrs London time / 1300 US Eastern Time (please note changes due to Daylight Saving Time) on 24 June, the day before publication. Wire services stories must always carry the embargo time at the head of each item, and may not be sent out more than 24 hours before that time. Journalists should seek to credit the relevant Nature publication as the source of stories covered.

For interviews contact:
Prof. Nikolai Brilliantov
Department of Mathematics,
University of Leicester
University Road,
Leicester LE1 7RH,
UK
Email: nb144@leicester.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0) 116 252 252 1
http://www.math.le.ac.uk/people/nb144
The full listing of authors and their affiliations for this paper is as follows:
F.Postberg1,2, S.Kempf2,3, J.Schmidt4, N.Brillantov5,6, A.Beinsen7, B.Abel7,8, U.Buck9, R.Srama2

1 Institut für Geowissenschaften, Universität Heidelberg, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany

2 Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

3 IGEP,Technische Universität Braunschweig, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany

4 Nichtlineare Dynamik, Universität Potsdam, 14469 Potsdam, Germany

5 Department of Mathematics, University of Leicester, Leicester LEI 7RH, UK

6 Department of Physics, Moscow State University, 119991 Moscow, Russia

7 Institut für Physikalische Chemie, Universität Göttingen, 37077, Göttingen, Germany

8 Wilhelm-Oswald-Institut für Physikalische und Theoretische Chemie, Universität Leipzig, 04103 Leipzig, Germany

9 Max-Planck-Institut für Dynamik und Selbstorganisation, 37073 Göttingen, Germany

The work has been supported by DLR and DFG.

Prof Nikolai Brilliantov | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.leicester.ac.uk

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Further Improvement of Qubit Lifetime for Quantum Computers
09.12.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich

nachricht Electron highway inside crystal
09.12.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

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: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>