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Strongest evidence yet indicates Enceladus hiding saltwater ocean
PhysOrg.com ^ | 06-22-2011 | Provided by University of Colorado at Boulder

Posted on 06/22/2011 10:38:22 AM PDT by Red Badger

Samples of icy spray shooting from Saturn's moon Enceladus collected during Cassini spacecraft flybys show the strongest evidence yet for the existence of a large-scale, subterranean saltwater ocean, says a new international study led by the University of Heidelberg and involving the University of Colorado Boulder.

The new discovery was made during the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, a collaboration of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. Launched in 1997, the mission spacecraft arrived at the Saturn system in 2004 and has been touring the giant ringed planet and its vast moon system ever since.

The plumes shooting water vapor and tiny grains of ice into space were originally discovered emanating from Enceladus -- one of 19 known moons of Saturn -- by the Cassini spacecraft in 2005. The plumes were originating from the so-called "tiger stripe" surface fractures at the moon's south pole and apparently have created the material for the faint E Ring that traces the orbit of Enceladus around Saturn.

During three of Cassini's passes through the plume in 2008 and 2009, the Cosmic Dust Analyser, or CDA, on board measured the composition of freshly ejected plume grains. The icy particles hit the detector's target at speeds of up to 11 miles per second, instantly vaporizing them. The CDA separated the constituents of the resulting vapor clouds, allowing scientists to analyze them.

The study shows the ice grains found further out from Enceladus are relatively small and mostly ice-poor, closely matching the composition of the E Ring. Closer to the moon, however, the Cassini observations indicate that relatively large, salt-rich grains dominate.

"There currently is no plausible way to produce a steady outflow of salt-rich grains from solid ice across all the tiger stripes other than the salt water under Enceladus' icy surface," said Frank Postberg of the University of Germany, lead author of a study being published in Nature on June 23. Other co-authors include Jürgen Schmidt from the University of Potsdam, Jonathan Hillier from Open University headquartered in Milton Keynes, England, and Ralf Srama from the University of Stuttgart.

"The study indicates that 'salt-poor' particles are being ejected from the underground ocean through cracks in the moon at a much higher speed than the larger, salt-rich particles," said CU-Boulder faculty member and study co-author Sascha Kempf of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

"The E Ring is made up predominately of such salt-poor grains, although we discovered that 99 percent of the mass of the particles ejected by the plumes was made up of salt-rich grains, which was an unexpected finding," said Kempf. "Since the salt-rich particles were ejected at a lower speed than the salt-poor particles, they fell back onto the moon's icy surface rather than making it to the E Ring."

According to the researchers, the salt-rich particles have an "ocean-like" composition that indicates most, if not all, of the expelled ice comes from the evaporation of liquid salt water rather than from the icy surface of the moon. When salt water freezes slowly the salt is "squeezed out," leaving pure water ice behind. If the plumes were coming from the surface ice, there should be very little salt in them, which was not the case, according to the research team.

The researchers believe that perhaps 50 miles beneath the surface crust of Enceladus a layer of water exists between the rocky core and the icy mantle that is kept in a liquid state by gravitationally driven tidal forces created by Saturn and several neighboring moons, as well as by heat generated by radioactive decay.

According to the scientists, roughly 440 pounds of water vapor is lost every second from the plumes, along with smaller amounts of ice grains. Calculations show the liquid ocean must have a sizable evaporating surface or it would easily freeze over, halting the formation of the plumes. "This study implies that nearly all of the matter in the Enceladus plumes originates from a saltwater ocean that has a very large evaporating surface," said Kempf.

Salt in the rock dissolves into the water, which accumulates in a liquid ocean beneath the icy crust, according to the Nature authors. When the outermost layer of the Enceladus crust cracks open, the reservoir is exposed to space. The drop in pressure causes the liquid to evaporate into a vapor, with some of it "flash-freezing" into salty ice grains, which subsequently creates the plumes, the science team believes.

"Enceladus is a tiny, icy moon located in a region of the outer Solar System where no liquid water was expected to exist because of its large distance from the sun," said Nicolas Altobelli, ESA's project scientist for the Cassini-Huygens mission. "This finding is therefore a crucial new piece of evidence showing that environmental conditions favorable to the emergence of life may be sustainable on icy bodies orbiting gas giant planets."

The Huygens probe was released from the main spacecraft and parachuted through the atmosphere to the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, in 2005.

The Cassini spacecraft is carrying 12 science instruments, including a $12.5 million CU-Boulder ultraviolet imaging spectrograph designed and built by a LASP team led by Professor Larry Esposito.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Technical
KEYWORDS: cassini; catastrophism; huygens; moon; planet; saturn; solarsystem; space; titan; velikovsky

This image shows icy spray spewing from Saturn's moon, Enceladus. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

1 posted on 06/22/2011 10:38:28 AM PDT by Red Badger
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To: KevinDavis

Space Ping!..........


2 posted on 06/22/2011 10:38:59 AM PDT by Red Badger (Nothing is a 'right' if someone has to give it to you................)
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To: SunkenCiv

Ping.


3 posted on 06/22/2011 10:42:27 AM PDT by houeto (Palin/DeMint - 2012!)
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To: Red Badger

But are there any fish?


4 posted on 06/22/2011 10:46:31 AM PDT by proudpapa (Palin-West - 2012)
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To: Red Badger

This is fascinating stuff.

I wonder what nation is going to fill the void created by the demise of NASA and develop a space program to further explore these mysteries?

China?


5 posted on 06/22/2011 10:47:08 AM PDT by brownsfan (I miss the America I grew up in.)
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To: Red Badger

I assume they mean sodium salt. But it could also be other salts.


6 posted on 06/22/2011 10:47:20 AM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy

7 posted on 06/22/2011 10:50:20 AM PDT by Red Badger (Nothing is a 'right' if someone has to give it to you................)
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To: proudpapa

You gotta have one hell of a license stamp to fish there..................


8 posted on 06/22/2011 10:51:12 AM PDT by Red Badger (Nothing is a 'right' if someone has to give it to you................)
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To: brownsfan

***”I wonder what nation is going to fill the void created by the demise of NASA and develop a space program to further explore these mysteries?”***

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/16/iran-satellite-launch-orbit


9 posted on 06/22/2011 10:54:23 AM PDT by Red Badger (Nothing is a 'right' if someone has to give it to you................)
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To: proudpapa
Woolly space whales !
10 posted on 06/22/2011 10:57:53 AM PDT by RadiationRomeo (Step into my mind and glimpse the madness that is me)
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To: Red Badger

Any signs of a boardwalk?


11 posted on 06/22/2011 10:59:31 AM PDT by domeika
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To: domeika

Any signs of a boardwalk?

No but.............

12 posted on 06/22/2011 11:08:47 AM PDT by Red Badger (Nothing is a 'right' if someone has to give it to you................)
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To: brownsfan
I wonder what nation is going to fill the void created by the demise of NASA and develop a space program to further explore these mysteries?

Hopefully it won't be the government of any nation, but a privately funded, non-political organization.

Like spaceshiptwo.net

.

13 posted on 06/22/2011 11:09:09 AM PDT by repentant_pundit (Maybe THIS summer will finally be the "Summer of Recovery")
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To: RadiationRomeo

There are ‘fur whales’ in the science fiction DUNE series.............


14 posted on 06/22/2011 11:09:46 AM PDT by Red Badger (Nothing is a 'right' if someone has to give it to you................)
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To: All

With the obam-ites creating a society of parasites, we will never see the day we regularly travel to nearby planets or solar-systems.
God put us here to praise him and honor him by achieving max potential and thus far, that has been stepping foot on the moon......excellence was fun while it lasted....


15 posted on 06/22/2011 11:12:44 AM PDT by Maverick68
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To: Red Badger
I hated Dune, should have smoked more dope.
16 posted on 06/22/2011 11:26:26 AM PDT by Little Bill (Sorry)
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To: Maverick68

I was just thinking yesterday during my drive to work that NASA has become nothing more than a tourist attraction - much like DisneyWorld in Orlando.


17 posted on 06/22/2011 11:28:03 AM PDT by roaddog727 (It's the Constitution, Stupid!)
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To: roaddog727

It’s just damn sad that the mankind’s greatest achievment happened nearly 50 years ago and we’ve lost the desire to surpass it.....where the hell are my gravity cars and cities on the clouds!?!


18 posted on 06/22/2011 11:30:06 AM PDT by Maverick68
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To: Little Bill

The book or the movie(s)?...................


19 posted on 06/22/2011 11:30:48 AM PDT by Red Badger (Nothing is a 'right' if someone has to give it to you................)
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To: Maverick68

damn straight.

Where’s our Colony on Mars?

Where’s our “Real” space station? not a Geosynchronous lab experiment


20 posted on 06/22/2011 11:33:13 AM PDT by roaddog727 (It's the Constitution, Stupid!)
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To: Maverick68

“It’s just damn sad that the mankind’s greatest achievment happened nearly 50 years ago...”

Whoa, whoa — obamacare was just passed last year!


21 posted on 06/22/2011 11:34:09 AM PDT by Londo Molari
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To: Red Badger

Book.


22 posted on 06/22/2011 11:41:17 AM PDT by Little Bill (Sorry)
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To: Little Bill
There is more to Dune than just the first book. There are six books in the original series by author Frank Herbert, and since he died, there are 10 Prequels and sequels to the series. It is perhaps the greatest sci-fi series of all time.

Official website:

http://www.dunenovels.com/

I am also a fan of Issac Asimov and his Foundation series. There is a great resemblance in the two series...............

The movies are not that great, though the 1984 movie captures the look and feel of Dune the best.........

23 posted on 06/22/2011 11:48:50 AM PDT by Red Badger (Nothing is a 'right' if someone has to give it to you................)
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To: Red Badger
I think that Herbert ripped off a stranger in a strange land scenario and then got stranger, GROK!
24 posted on 06/22/2011 11:56:09 AM PDT by Little Bill (Sorry)
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To: Red Badger
I think that Herbert ripped off a stranger in a strange land scenario and then got stranger, GROK!
25 posted on 06/22/2011 11:56:20 AM PDT by Little Bill (Sorry)
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To: Little Bill
Stranger in a Strange Land is a good novel, but it's nothing like Dune. SIASL was written in 1961 and Dune in 1965 and won the Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 1966. I don't think they would have awarded it to him if it was a 'rip-off'..............
26 posted on 06/22/2011 12:02:37 PM PDT by Red Badger (Nothing is a 'right' if someone has to give it to you................)
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To: Red Badger
Read it in 1967, care package in Nam, did not like it then and I did not like it when I was gifted it last year and reread it. The man was a one hit wonder, neither a good fantasy or good blend of SF and fantasy, GROK!
27 posted on 06/22/2011 12:30:10 PM PDT by Little Bill (Sorry)
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To: houeto; 75thOVI; agrace; aimhigh; Alice in Wonderland; AndrewC; aragorn; aristotleman; ...

Thanks houeto.


28 posted on 06/22/2011 5:09:17 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Thanks Cincinna for this link -- http://www.friendsofitamar.org)
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To: Red Badger

A little different explanation:
http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2011/arch11/110425enceladus.htm

and here:
http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2006/arch06/060313moonjets.htm


29 posted on 06/22/2011 8:01:56 PM PDT by Zuse
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To: SunkenCiv

Why should we be the only ones who have nice, salt-water oceans?


30 posted on 06/23/2011 6:09:23 AM PDT by TheOldLady (FReepmail me to get ON or OFF the ZOT LIGHTNING ping list.)
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