Saturn moon may contain liquid water

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Enceladus from Voyager 2
Image: NASA.

A report published in the scientific journal Nature of results from the Cassini probe indicates the discovery of the existence of liquid water on Saturn's moon Enceladus, and with it the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

Analysis of ice particles once thought to be emitted by geysers from the moon revealed the presence of sodium salt in the ice. As on Earth, the most plausible explanation of the presence of salt water is the prolonged contact of liquid water with mineral bearing rocks.

The currently accepted scientific theory for how life occurs requires the presence of three elements: the existence of complex organic molecules, liquid water and a source of energy. All three appear to be present on Enceladus.

The possibility of discovering a global ocean on the moon has receded, and has been replaced by the idea of large subterranean caverns with large pools or lakes of water, created by tidal forces acting upon Enceladus, and it is from these mist filled caverns that the water evaporates into the atmosphere in a steady jet. However, until further flybys and missions can be carried out other mechanisms for the presence of salt water ice cannot yet be dismissed.


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