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This has to be the most awesome thing I've seen all week
NASA's Cassini spacecraft [has made] its lowest pass yet over the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus, where icy particles and water vapor spray out in glittering jets. The closest approach, at an altitude of about 46 miles (74 kilometers), will occur around 11:30 a.m. PDT (2:30 p.m. EDT) on March 27. This flyby is primarily designed for Cassini's ion and neutral mass spectrometer, which will attempt to "taste" particles from the jets. Scientists using this spectrometer will utilize the data to learn more about the composition, density and variability of the plume.
"More than 90 jets of all sizes near Enceladus's south pole are spraying water vapor, icy particles, and organic compounds all over the place," says Carolyn Porco, an award-winning planetary scientist and leader of the Imaging Science team for NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. "Cassini has flown several times now through this spray and has tasted it. And we have found that aside from water and organic material, there is salt in the icy particles. The salinity is the same as that of Earth's oceans." Thermal measurements of Enceladus's fissures have revealed temperatures as high as -120 deg Fahrenheit (190 Kelvin). "If you add up all the heat, 16 gigawatts of thermal energy are coming out of those cracks," says Porco. She believes the small moon, with its sub-surface liquid sea, organics, and an energy source, may host the same type of life we find in similar environments on Earth.
Originally posted by Nicolas Flamel
Thanks for posting all the cool pics of Enceladus. Definitely one of the most beautiful moons in our solar system.
There are other moons that are thought to have liquid oceans: Europa most certainly. Others suspected of having a liquid ocean include Callisto, Ganymede, Rhea, Titania, Oberon, Triton, Pluto, Eris, Sedna, and Orcus.
There is no way that life can be absent from all of them. We just have to go look.