Saturn’s moon Enceladus may have ocean the size of Lake Superior under frozen surface

Apr 4, 2014
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Saturn’s moon Enceladus may have ocean the size of Lake Superior under frozen surface

Scientists are looking at a number of celestial bodies in our solar system as potential habitats for life. One of the spots that we are looking at is one of Saturn's moons called Enceladus. This moon is particularly interesting because it is known to spew water into space. Gravity measurements suggest that the moon has an ocean between its rocky core and the icy shell that is about the size of Lake Superior.

Scientists believe that liquid ocean is about 31 miles below the surface of the moon. Scientist David Stevenson says that the liquid ocean could extend halfway or more toward the equator of the moon in every direction. The ocean under the surface of Enceladus is believed to be salty because the water shot into space by water plumes on the surface of the moon has been tested by the Cassini spacecraft.

Cassini found that the water contained salt and organic molecules. Those materials would end up in water if minerals from rock were leaching into the water. Indications that a large liquid ocean is present on the moon come as no surprise since the water plumes are well documented already. The gravity measurements used to predict the size of the liquid ocean were gathered as Cassini passed close by Enceladus in 2010 and 2012.

Cassini passed over the south pole of the moon only 65 miles and 44 miles above the surface in those two years. A third flyby was the closest to the surface at only 31 miles above the moon's North Pole. Enceladus is small at about 300 miles in diameter. The discovery certainly puts Enceladus up there with Jupiter's moon Europa as a place to send mission to in the future to search for signs of life.

SOURCE: Discovery


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