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:
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!
NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth
17.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Pluto's hydrocarbon haze keeps dwarf planet colder than expected
16.11.2017 | University of California - Santa Cruz
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine
17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses