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March 23, 2011

New Enceladus Observation

Scientists have recently discovered that Enceladus' geysers have around 2.6 times the power first thought. As we all know, Saturn's moon, Enceladus, is currently known to be geologically active as displayed by its powerful geyser(s) on its south pole. This discovery is especially appealing because it means that Enceladus has the possibility to be much warmer than scientists originally believed.

"The possibility of liquid water, a tidal energy source and the observation of organic (carbon-rich) chemicals in the plume of Enceladus make the satellite a site of strong astrobiological interest," Howett said.

Who knows? Maybe we'll find life there yet.


Posted by strodel at March 23, 2011 11:40 AM


This is interesting and the potential for life is exciting. I don't understand though how the power of Enceladus' geysers determines the planet's ability to contain liquid water. Is it just a matter of temperature? Do the geysers really have that much of an effect on planetary temperature?

Posted by: ecfo at March 24, 2011 02:20 AM

Good question. The problem is that the geysers could be from many different sources. For instance, bursts of volcanic activity below the surface might be exploding, and cracking through the surface, spewing stuff into space. That is different from water "steam" bursting up (like Old Faithful), which requires a reserviour of liquid water). So if they find a strong and wide-rpead heat source, we can conclude that there really is a liquid ocean underneath the surface.

Recall that the other best candidate (Europa) only shows cracks on its surfacem that seem to occasionally get filled in (perhaps by liquid water). On Enceladus, we have not just cracks, but true geysers and an observed heat source.

Maybe someday an astronaut will go swimming there!

Posted by: christoq at March 24, 2011 02:01 PM

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