Monday, June 29, 2009

Short on Water? We'll Always Have Enceladus

Plumes of water ice emerge from deep within Saturn's moon Enceladus. These ices refresh Saturn's E ring. Scientists have found salts in the E ring that speak to the interaction of water and rock under the moon's icy surface. (NASA)

Cassini spacecraft finds evidence for liquid water on Enceladus
By Pete Spotts

In the hunt for potential habitats for life beyond Earth, Saturn’s moon Enceladus is looking better and better.

The latest boost to the moon’s profile appears not at the moon itself, but in Saturn’s outermost ring, the E ring. Enceladus shepherds the ring, which it formed and renews by spewing ice grains into space via the plumes venting from its South Pole region.

This week, scientists reported that they’ve detected the chemical equivalent of table salt and baking soda in some of the E ring’s grains.

The only way those compounds could form, researchers say, is through the interaction of liquid water and rock. And the only spot in the neighborhood where those kinds of reactions could take place is Enceladus, with its rocky core, and at least early in its history, an ocean beneath its icy crust.

The results appear in the current issue of the journal Nature.

Balance of article: The Christian Science Monitor

No comments: