Has Cassini discovered an ocean deep inside Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus?

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During a 2005 orbit of Saturn, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft “found jets of salty water spewing from the south polar region” of Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus.

Image credit: NASA/JPL

Image credit: NASA/JPL

What makes this discovery intriguing is that geysers require a steady source of water, suggesting that Enceladus may have an ocean underneath its icy surface. Initially, scientists were puzzled because Enceladus is too far from the sun to absorb the necessary energy required to harbor an ocean. To solve this dilemna, scientists instructed Cassini to fly over Enceladus to take additional measurements. The data collected suggest that Enceladus’ liquid water is the result of Saturn’s gravitational force whose “pull could heat up the interior through a process called tidal kneading, which creates tides in the ocean causing internal friction and thus heat.

Image credit: www.arsetechnica.com

Based on additional readings, scientists theorize that the thickest part of Enceladus’ water layer lies near its south pole. Hopefully, NASA will be able to secure funding for additional opportunities to explore Enceladus.

 

About Author

Kristian strives to enlighten and entertain readers. In addition to his teaching and editorial responsibilities, he is working on a science-fiction novel that promises not to include exoskeleton suits and anemic aliens floating in mysterious vats of green-tinted goop.

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