Friday, March 10, 2006

Cassini finds evidence of Liquid Water on Enceladus

NASA may not be gushing about recent evidence that Saturn's moon Enceladus may have liquid water erupting like geysers but they should certainly be excited. This could is the first evidence of liquid water near the surface of a planet's moon.

Cassini spacecraft Photo of Moon Enceladus
(Source: NASA/JPL)

From NASA'S press release: NASA's Cassini Discovers Potential Liquid Water on Enceladus

"We realize that this is a radical conclusion -- that we may have evidence for liquid water within a body so small and so cold," said Dr. Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. "However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms."

High-resolution Cassini images show icy jets and towering plumes ejecting large quantities of particles at high speed. Scientists examined several models to explain the process. They ruled out the idea that the particles are produced by or blown off the moon's surface by vapor created when warm water ice converts to a gas. Instead, scientists have found evidence for a much more exciting possibility -- the jets might be erupting from near-surface pockets of liquid water above 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), like cold versions of the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone.

An interesting Cassini image and description of the Enceladus geyser's plumes can be found here.

Additionally an audio podcast is available here from NASA describing the evidence and how surprised the Scientists were with this find.

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