Enceladus Is Home to a Global Ocean Beneath Its Icy Surface

Monday, 21 September 2015 - 11:43AM
Space
Astrobiology
Monday, 21 September 2015 - 11:43AM
Enceladus Is Home to a Global Ocean Beneath Its Icy Surface
After years of observation, NASA's Cassini mission has discovered what they believe is definitive evidence that Saturn's moon Enceladus has a global ocean lying directly underneath the icy crust.

Enceladus Is Home to a Global Ocean

When the satellite orbits Saturn, it has a very slight wobble, for which the researchers discovered an exact magnitude. If the icy shell was frozen down to the rocky core, then the wobble would have an even lesser magnitude, leading Cassini analysts to conclude that there is a layer of water between the crust and the core. 

Opening quote
"If the surface and core were rigidly connected, the core would provide so much dead weight the wobble would be far smaller than we observe it to be," said co-author Matthew Tiscareno in a NASA statement. "This proves that there must be a global layer of liquid separating the surface from the core."
Closing quote


In order to come to this conclusion, the researchers analyzed more than seven years' worth of observations from Cassini. By mapping out geological features, such as craters, they were able to measure the change in position during orbit, thereby determining the magnitude of the wobble.

The mechanism by which the ocean would maintain its liquid state is still a mystery, but the researchers are still "confident they finally got it right."

The study could have many implications for future study of Enceladus; not only does the presence of a liquid ocean make it much more likely that Enceladus could be host to alien life, but NASA scientists believe that this could indicate a significant amount of heat generation within Enceladus.
Science
NASA
Space
Astrobiology

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