Moon Enceladus – Top Candidate for Extraterrestrial Life

Astronomy
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According new measurement, Saturn’s moon Enceladus has liquid water sea

The more we know about us, the more we are trying to find prove that we are not alone. There are many candidates in our solar system where life could be. Jupiter’s moon Europa, Titan – the Saturn’s moon seem the most likely to have extraterrestrial life. But now, there is one moon that jumped to the top pretty fast. It’s Saturn‘s moon Enceladus. It is due to the discovery of a liquid water ocean right below the icy surface. 

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This illustration shows what astronomers think the interior of Saturn’s moon Enceladus looks like. There’s a big rocky core, an icy exterior, and a large liquid sea in the south, between the core and the exterior. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

We know, that moon Enceladus is not really an exciting place. The scientists believed that it was inactive boring moon with ice and rock, materials common in the outer parts of the solar system. The first indication that moon Enceladus could have water appeared in 2005 when Cassini spacecraft took images of icy water geysers at the South Pole. This was of course extremely exciting when the water was found.

The Cassini was undoubtedly great source for all the data that scientists need in order to continue with study. The team, which consisted from the Italian and American scientists found that in the south , there is a substance below the ice that has a greater density than ice. David Stevenson, planetary scientist from the California Institute of Technology who worked on the study said: “Those measurements revealed there’s something underneath Enceladus’ ice in the south that’s denser than the ice. Liquid water is the most likely explanation.”

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Artist’s concept showing a cross-section of the ice shell beneath one of Enceladus’ “tiger stripe” fractures, from which geysers of water vapor and ice blast into space.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

But how there possibly can be water? The answer is in the fluctuations in gravitational pull from Saturn. This affects all of the 50+ moons. These forces flex the ice and the ice rub together. It seems very reasonable to believe that this could make the ice melt. But the surface is still in tact due to extremely cold temperatures.

But it is not only good news. The moon Enceladus is small and it lacks the gravity needed to maintain the atmosphere. On the other hand, scientists also cannot confirm the internal structure of the ice. The internal “plumbing” on the moon Enceladus will require much more research. Researches currently don’t know what are the steps because the Cassini is now scheduled to investigate two other Saturnian moons, Titan and Dione.

source: sciencemag.org

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Michaela Miklusak

Michaela Miklusak is deputy editor of TechandFacts.com and big technology enthusiast. Michaela now lives in Singapore, where she studies System Engineering and Informatics. michaelam@techandfacts.com

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