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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

7/30/2014 (8 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Discovery suggests that liquid water may be able to reside on moon's surface

The universe has offered up many amazing sights over the past years, but the most recent one seems to take it all. At least 101 geysers have been discovered erupting on Saturn's frozen moon Enceladus. This find suggests that it may be possible for liquid water in the moon's underground sea to reach the surface.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft first spotted the geysers as plumes in 2005.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft first spotted the geysers as plumes in 2005.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/30/2014 (8 months ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: Enceladus, Saturn, geysers, Cassini


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - NASA's Cassini spacecraft first spotted the geysers as plumes in 2005. Scientists have been able to further study the geysers and accurately count them, as the Cassini has been orbiting Saturn and its surrounding moons over the past several years.

When the geysers were first discovered, scientists at first thought they were caused by repeated "flexing" of Enceladus by Saturn's gravity as the moon orbits the planet. Further studies have revealed that the geysers coincide with small "hot spots" that are roughly a few dozen feet across. These are too small to be produced by frictional heating from flexing. They are, however, the right size to be formed from condensation of vapor from fractures in the moon's surface.

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"Once we had these results in hand, we knew right away heat was not causing the geysers, but vice versa," Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado said. Porco, the lead author of the first paper, added that "it also told us the geysers are not a near-surface phenomenon, but have much deeper roots."

There has been speculation in the scientific community that the ocean of liquid water beneath the frozen crust is capable of supporting life. The 6-mile deep ocean is not easily accessible for study - it is beneath a crust of solid ice that is between 19 and 25 miles thick. Situated above the moon's rocky seafloor, this configuration means that there is potential for chemical reactions similar to those that likely bed to life forming on Earth.

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