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Space Science

Enceladus "Sea" Mystery Deepens 166

Posted by kdawson
from the who-moved-my-sodium dept.
Smivs writes "The BBC reports that an ocean may not be the source of the jets emanating from Saturn's moon Enceladus. Controversial research questions the moon's promise as a target in the search for life beyond Earth. A chemical analysis of Enceladus, led by University of Colorado planetary scientist Nick Schneider, failed to detect sodium, an element scientists say should be present in any body of water that has been in contact with rock for billions of years. Spectral analysis with the Keck Telescope found no sodium in the plumes or in the vapor in orbit around the moon. At stake is whether Saturn's moon could support alien life and is thus a worthy target for a NASA exploratory mission to detect it. Such a mission to Enceladus is one of four currently under review for further development."
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Enceladus "Sea" Mystery Deepens

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    • Informative to whom? (Score:4, Informative)

      by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:15AM (#21748490) Journal
      A link to the electric universe nonesense posted by slashdot's #1 EU fanboy is about as informative as "The DaVinci Code", "State of Fear" or "The Panda's thumb".
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by pln2bz (449850) *

        A link to the electric universe nonesense posted by slashdot's #1 EU fanboy is about as informative as "The DaVinci Code", "State of Fear" or "The Panda's thumb".

        That's a pretty strong statement considering that the American public is being asked to pay for a mission to the planet to study these supposed cracks, and presumably to eventually study the supposed ocean beneath the ice. I think that most Americans would appreciate hearing more than just one viewpoint on how their money is being spent. One can

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rei (128717)
          Yeah! And while we're on the subject, I think it's pretty crazy that the American public is being asked to pay for MRI machines in hospitals to study people's brains, and presumably to eventually study the effect of brain structure on thought, yet they so readily discout phrenology. I think that most Americans would appreciate hearing more than just one viewpoint on how their money is being spent. One can be forgiven for getting the impression that most conventional psychiatrists would prefer to die tryi
          • by pln2bz (449850) *
            There's a *big* difference, btw, between arguing that a proper case has not been made for the electrical terraforming of planets, and that it is an absurd idea. Most of the conventional paradigm advocates I talk to argue the former case. You appear to be arguing the latter. If it's so absurd that electrical plasmas are etching out Enceladus, then it makes sense that you should be able to demonstrate why the link I posted is so wrong.
            • If it's so absurd that electrical plasmas are etching out Enceladus, then it makes sense that you should be able to demonstrate why the link I posted is so wrong.

              It's easy enough to do, for an audience comprised of folk who've got degrees in, or who work full-time in, planetary science, space (plasma) science (physics), geophysics, etc.

              Much more difficult is to come up with a demonstration that you would regard as acceptable.

              Why?

              For starters, as our dialogue (if it can be called that) in various SD comment strings attests, you do not accept the standard (plasma physics, space science, ...) scientific paradigm, so a demonstration within that paradigm would leave you

        • by Iron Condor (964856) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @03:09AM (#21749036)

          The earth is NOT flat because one can fly around it.

          Now this is not an easy undertaking -- quite a bit of time, money and effort has to be expended to fly around the earth.

          But after you've done it, after you've flown around the earth yourself, you do not have to give "equal time" to the notion of a flat earth anymore.

          • One could fly around the Earth even if it were flat. Image the flat earth layed out exactly as with any of the map projections where the entire Earth is drawn on a flat paper map. It is possable to fly in a circle (no, a "closed loop") such that you would see the same ground track as if you flew over a great circle route over a sperical Earth. I don't think you could tell the difference just be flying and looking out the window. One way to prove that it is round is to measure the local curvature. This
        • by fbjon (692006)
          WTF? Are you talking about some sort of democratic science where the public at large is "shown the evidence" so they then can "decide for themselves"? Classic pseudo-science behaviour. If you want plasma socmology to be taken seriously, then supporters would do well to cut the crap and bring the substance, because though it's an intriguing theory, I see a lot of kooky stuff going on.

          You also say:

          Many of the conventional astrophysicists are refusing to consider the *possibility* that electricity in space does things of importance.

          Extraordinary claims, and all that. If you're the expert, shouldn't you do the science then?

          • by pln2bz (449850) *

            If you want plasma socmology to be taken seriously, then supporters would do well to cut the crap and bring the substance, because though it's an intriguing theory, I see a lot of kooky stuff going on.

            Is dark matter and dark energy not kooky stuff to you? When astrophysicists have difficulty, for instance, identifying enough matter to generate gravitational lensing, and just assume the needed dark matter necessary to make it so, is that not also kooky to you?

            When astrophysicists see filaments of plasma in

            • Is dark matter and dark energy not kooky stuff to you? When astrophysicists have difficulty, for instance, identifying enough matter to generate gravitational lensing, and just assume the needed dark matter necessary to make it so, is that not also kooky to you?

              First, congratulations on, once again, mis-stating and misunderstanding an interesting part of modern astrophysics.

              Second, thanks for the clarity with which you state the gulf between your 'viewpoint' and the nature of modern (astro)physics.

              FWIW (for what it's worth), in astrophysics, 'non-baryonic dark matter' is extraordinary ... several classes of quite different, independent observations lead to the same, quantitatively consistent conclusion. Further, the concept has great utility, not least because i

        • by antonyb (913324)

          I think that most Americans would appreciate hearing more than just one viewpoint on how their money is being spent
          Isn't that basically how you ended up with intelligent design on the syllabus?
        • So tell us, if you'd be so kind pln2bz, how do you suggest anyone - scientist, non-scientist; member of the American public, citizen of Germany; and so on - should judge, evaluate, test, assess and otherwise check up on the dozens, hundreds, thousands, ... of other 'viewpoints'?

          It's a serious question; I hope you'll give it some thought, and give us the benefit of your serious consideration on it.
          • by pln2bz (449850) *

            So tell us, if you'd be so kind pln2bz, how do you suggest anyone - scientist, non-scientist; member of the American public, citizen of Germany; and so on - should judge, evaluate, test, assess and otherwise check up on the dozens, hundreds, thousands, ... of other 'viewpoints'?

            Are you arguing that people should not try to understand complex subjects because it is difficult?
            • So tell us, if you'd be so kind pln2bz, how do you suggest anyone - scientist, non-scientist; member of the American public, citizen of Germany; and so on - should judge, evaluate, test, assess and otherwise check up on the dozens, hundreds, thousands, ... of other 'viewpoints'?

              Are you arguing that people should not try to understand complex subjects because it is difficult?

              Not in the least! I can't work out how you inferred that from what I wrote.

              What I meant was, given the hundreds (if not thousands) of (other) 'viewpoints' that have scientific merit that is similar to 'EU Theory', what method(s) do you suggest Joan Chardonnay and Joe Sixpack (or Dr Zhou and Herr Professor Georg) use to evaluate (test, assess, check, ...) them?

              Few members of the American public (or citizens of Germany, or ...) have the time to spend reading even a small subset of such viewpoints, let alo

              • by pln2bz (449850) *

                What I meant was, given the hundreds (if not thousands) of (other) 'viewpoints' that have scientific merit that is similar to 'EU Theory', what method(s) do you suggest Joan Chardonnay and Joe Sixpack (or Dr Zhou and Herr Professor Georg) use to evaluate (test, assess, check, ...) them?

                Different cosmologies offer different sets of evidence, and they have to be evaluated on their own terms. To argue that mathematics is the *only* effective manner of identifying which cosmology is correct ignores the fact th

      • by TempeTerra (83076)
        It's a while since I read it but I remember "The Panda's Thumb" being enjoyable if fairly lightweight natural history. It seems like the odd one out. Honest question, is there some controversy I missed?
        • Hmmm, yes I seem to have screwed the name up.

          The Panda's thumb is by Stephen J Gould who IMHO is an excellent authour, it is not what I was thinking off. Not sure now of the title but it had something to do with Panda's and was basically the same old creationist nonesense.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by dylan_- (1661)

            The Panda's thumb is by Stephen J Gould who IMHO is an excellent authour, it is not what I was thinking off. Not sure now of the title but it had something to do with Panda's and was basically the same old creationist nonesense.
            You're thinking of "Of Pandas and People" [wikipedia.org].
    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @08:53PM (#21759282) Homepage Journal
      1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.
      Check

      2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.
      Check

      3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.
      Check

      4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.
      Check

      5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.
      Check

      6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.
      Check

      7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.
      Check.

  • failed to detect sodium, an element scientists say should be present in any body of water that has been in contact with rock for billions of years.

    I know people spend their entire lives studying these things, but how do you really know that ALL rock has sulfur in it? Isn't it possible that for whatever reason this rock doesn't?
    • Re:How do you know? (Score:5, Informative)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:35AM (#21748260) Journal
      it's not sulfur, it's sodium and it's common enough in everything else that we've found in regard to rocks that sodium is a good bet for a relatively easy target for determining if there is indeed a liquid ocean under the surface. it's already suspected that ganymede has a liquid ocean under the surface with dissolved salts that cause the ocean to be conductive and conductive fluid interiors lend themselves to forming magnetic fields, thus it is also suspected that Enceladus has a similar ocean. Although in this case, the fact that Sodium wasn't detected doesn't fit the hypothesis that Enceladus has a liquid, saly ocean underneath.
    • by rucs_hack (784150)
      It's not possible that the rock there doesn't have sodium in it, because the rock in Enceladus, like the rock on earth, all comes from the same original cloud of material from which the entire solar system was formed.

      It had a fair few billion years to mix (made up time, I have no idea how long the cloud of material existed as just a cloud), and then all the planets were made by the giant mutant star goat or something.

      Anyway, it makes it easier to speculate as to the content of the rock.
      • It's not possible that the rock there doesn't have sodium in it, because the rock in Enceladus, like the rock on earth, all comes from the same original cloud of material from which the entire solar system was formed.

        It had a fair few billion years to mix (made up time, I have no idea how long the cloud of material existed as just a cloud), and then all the planets were made by the giant mutant star goat or something.

        Anyway, it makes it easier to speculate as to the content of the rock.

        Yes,
        • by rucs_hack (784150)
          Yes, but the solar system is not homogeneous. For instance the isotope ratios on Earth are known to be different from other parts of the solar system. Also, the outer planets are gas giants, while the inner planets are rocky.

          Those gas giants are theorised to have rocky cores, And it's not too surprising that gas giants form further out. They can't survive too close to a star. That they form isn't surprising, as there is a lot more gas than rocky material, and we're finding them around other stars, so they
        • by vtcodger (957785)
          ***(made up time, I have no idea how long the cloud of material existed as just a cloud)***

          Not very long at all apparently. It's generally supposed that the sun is about 4.5 billion years old (I've forgotten why we think that, but I do recall that the logic seemed credible.) Every very old meteorite or lunar rock we have dated, dates from about 4.5 billion years ago -- none older. Because of constant reworking of material, very old terrestrial rocks are very rare, but a few microscopic zircons from A

  • by haakondahl (893488) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:12PM (#21747778)
    ...overmining by the Europans. Yes, the sole hyperpower in far solar orbit is exploiting the resources of honest, hard-working, frozen Enceladans. Don't buy Morton Salt.
  • "If you have a long-lived ocean, it's going to have salt in it,"

    Just like Lake Michigan?
    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:22PM (#21747840) Homepage
      Isn't Lake Michigan, along with all the other lakes, refilled every so often (on a geological time scale)? Seems to me that any salt that eroded from the rocks would eventually flow downstream and end up in the oceans. And it would get filled up again by rain water, which doesn't contain salt. That is my completely made up reason as to why lakes don't have salt, while oceans and seas do. Anybody know whether or not it makes any sense.
      • I don't know if it's the correct reason, but it makes sense to me. Pretty much the same reason as freshwater rivers fed from rainfall runoff or melting glaciers.
    • by Cairnarvon (901868) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:42PM (#21747962) Homepage
      Lake Michigan may be a freshwater lake, but it still contains salt. According to my internets, a cubic foot of Lake Michigan water contains about a sixth of an ounce of salt.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MacDork (560499)

      >"If you have a long-lived ocean, it's going to have salt in it,"

      Just like Lake Michigan?

      Yes, [palomar.edu] just like Lake Michigan.

      1 cubic foot of sea water evaporates it yields about 2.2 pounds of salt, but 1 cubic foot of fresh water from Lake Michigan contains only one one-hundredth (0.01) of a pound of salt, or about one sixth of an ounce. Thus, sea water is 220 times saltier than the fresh lake water.

    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:56PM (#21748042) Homepage Journal
      A glacial lake is not the same as an ocean.
    • by cuby (832037)
      the water in that lake has 10000 years (it's from the last glaciation), the water in Enceladus is there from the beginning.
    • >Just like Lake Michigan?

      A couple of points:
      1. Lake Michigan is not long-lived in a geologic sense.
      2. It does have salt in it, just not as much as the ocean. It will certainly show the sodium spectrum line referred to in TFA.
      3. Lake Michigan has an outlet. The water is constantly replaced. Even so, see number 2.
  • Obligatory (Score:1, Insightful)

    by PixieDust (971386)
    It's life Jim but not as we know it. It's life Jim but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it Captain!

    Seriously though, why is it that life developing elsewhere MUST have sodium? The strictest definition of life doesn't require specific elements or chemicals to be present, only behaviors, or functions if you will. Ignoring something because it doesn't fit neatly with what WE need for life is absurd, ESPECIALLY when looking at something that far from the sun, and thus cold.

    /two cents

    • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:47PM (#21747990)
      Sodium existing as a requirement for life is not the issue here. I know this is slashdot and everything, but even TFS clearly states that the question is whether or not an ocean is the source of the water plumes that have been observed. It is the ocean we are looking for and it is the ocean that we believe is an indication of possible life.
      You may still take offense to the assumption that water is required, but when millions, nay, billions of dollars are on the line at NASA, you can be sure that greater and brighter minds than you or I have taken all the considerations and the great majority of scientists continue to believe that large bodies of liquid water are sufficient if not necessary conditions for life.
      Furthermore, if there is life, but not as we know it, then it is nigh unto impossible for us to begin looking for it. The most resources must necessarily be used in a manner which has the highest chance for success, and the small odds of finding life as we know it still compare favorably to the negligible odds that we find life as we do not.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Darby (84953)
        the great majority of scientists continue to believe that large bodies of liquid water are sufficient if not necessary conditions for life.

        So you're saying that the great majority of scientists believe that every large body of liquid water in the universe contains life, but there might be life in other places as well?

        I think you meant "necessary but not sufficient".

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Tim C (15259)
          No, I think he's trying to say that a large body of water is sufficient for life to exist, but not necessary - the exact opposite of what you are saying.
          • But if he's saying that A is sufficient for B but not necessary he's effectively counterarguing his own point. Wouldn't that be unproductive? Let's remove the ambiguous use of sufficient and examine the statements avaiable:

            Large bodies of water is necessary for life
            Large bodies of water is not necessary for life

            Now if we return the word sufficient to the statements:

            Large bodies of water is sufficient and necessary for life (this is a redundant statement, if it's necessary no other caracteristic is i
    • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Informative)

      by Telvin_3d (855514) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:51PM (#21748008)
      Who said anything about life needing sodium? The only real assumption going on is that life is more likely to occur in a liquid environment. Up until now, they signs have been that there was a liquid environment present, and as such it was a good place to look for life. Better than the alternatives at least. Now, the new research calls into question the existence of the large body of liquid that was thought to exist. So, if there is no liquid, the chances of life existing are lower and the reason for priority missions goes away.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cyphercell (843398)

        As a layperson here's what gets me.

        The source of the plumes is "very, very pure water," Dr Schneider concluded, and proposed clean ice, melt water (ice that melts?) or clathrates - a crystal of water, carbon dioxide and ammonia - as alternative sources.

        A quick google search "freeze salt water" [google.com] returns:

        How do cold-blooded animals survive subfreezing water temperatures as low as 27.1oF without literally being shattered by ice crystals? Salt water with a salinity of 35 ppt (parts per thousand), the average salinity of the open ocean, freezes at 28.5oF. As sea water freezes, the salt becomes more concentrated in the remaining unfrozen water. This makes Antarctic water extremely salty, more so than most of the world's oceans causing it to freeze at a lower temperature.

        http://www.gma.org/surfing/antarctica/salt.html [gma.org]

        Seems to me like he says he's looking at clean ice and ice in general will not contain salt. What am I missing?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TapeCutter (624760)
          ...and since the heat source is deep inside the moon it's not unlikely that the ice that escapes has made it way to the surface as steam, ie: the journey to the surface might act as a natural distillery as the water in the fissures repeatedly boils and freezes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Credible (812975)
      How can this be modded insightful? The absence of water suggests it is less likely to support life. How can you (and clearly a few mods) misread a summary? No one is arguing either that: a. Sodium is required for life or even b. That water is required for life. Simply that the absence of sodium makes water less likely and the absence of water makes life less likely. Given a finite budget and so a finite number of bodies we can visit it make sense to prioritize where we go based on *assumptions* about the
  • so (Score:3, Funny)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:30PM (#21747870) Homepage Journal
    send the probe to enceladus anyways

    just put a salt shaker on it

    problem solved

    sheesh these scientist types and their "problems"
  • Off the map? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CraftyJack (1031736) on Tuesday December 18, 2007 @11:34PM (#21747900)

    At stake is whether Saturn's moon could support alien life and is thus a worthy target for a NASA exploratory mission to detect it.
    I can think of plenty of outer planet exploration missions that don't have detection of life as a goal. I think the presence of liquid water will keep a mission to Enceladus on the roadmap. Astrobiology is strapped for cash anyway.
  • After taking an astronomy class, I am not surprised at all that scientists would detect readings that contradict their model of what "should be happening" on an alien moon. The history of astronomy is a history of failed predictions. Let the evidence speak for itself.
    • by pln2bz (449850) *
      Be careful, or you'll be reported to the Bad Astronomy Grand Inquisitors. And by the way, there is no ocean beneath the ice on Enceladus unless and until it's declared within an astrophysical journal because things don't exist unless there is math to demonstrate at least an order of magnitude of certainty that it can be possible. Images and videos must first be converted to retroactive computer simulations that demonstrate without a doubt that the dominant paradigm could be true, so until that happens, ap
      • I was wondering how long before a chance to ask this came up; not long at all, as it turns out.

        Have you, yourself, stood on the surface of Enceladus pln2bz? No? Then how do you know it's real?

        No, this is a serious question ... if you do not have direct, personal experience of anything astronomical (beyond the Earth's atmosphere), whence comes your understanding of it?

        Perhaps you've got a telescope from Meade or a competitor in your backyard; perhaps you've observed Saturn through the eyepiece, and seen a sp
    • by psued0ch (1200431)
      You must understand that if astronomers can determine the atomic value of a speck of matter millions of light years away, then I have full faith in them being able to analyze the behavioral patterns of a planet's geosphere.
  • Waste of Money (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mothlos (832302) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:10AM (#21748124)
    Although a lack of salt is a fine excuse to not send a mission here, the better reason is that these missions are a tremendous waste of taxpayer resources. While I am no free market capitalist, it is waste like this which give fire to those who say that government can't make financially sound decisions. Lets focus our space program on useful tasks such as orbital solar energy collection and leave the fruitless search for extraterrestrial life to the hobbiests.
    • Re:Waste of Money (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:31AM (#21748224)
      It's really not a total waste of government money, because once alien life is found it will be a great tool for controling the masses through fear. Just think - instead of fearing another country we could now fear life from other planets. That should keep us busy for a couple of generations...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      these missions are a tremendous waste of taxpayer resources.

      I completely disagree. Manned missions are the real waste. Unmanned missions are a bargain compared to manned missions. They've made great discoveries, and someday may make fantastic discoveries, these unmanned probes. For example, The "Pioneer gravity anomaly" may end up rewriting physics and give us entirely new technology. One does not know until they go there.
           
    • Re:Waste of Money (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rve (4436) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @02:20AM (#21748842)
      It costs very little. The entire NASA funding is less than half of a percent of the government budget, it really is a pittance. Only a very small percentage of the NASA budget is used for space exploration.

      One Iraq war for example costs (so far) about a thousand times as much as putting robots on mars.

      Spending a very small amount of money on building a legacy isn't useless.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rei (128717)
      Lets focus our space program on useful tasks such as orbital solar energy collection

      Lol. You do that, and tell me when you find a way to make it so that increasing your capital costs a hundredfold on every square meter of solar panels (by launching them into space), as well as your maintenance costs, in order to get ~3 times the power per square meter, and then lose a good chunk of your gain in beamed energy transmission, a profitable deal. While you're at it, build a perpetual motion machine. ;)

      and leave
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GTMoogle (968547)
      Really, more to the point, life is a tremendous waste of time if you're not learning about the world in which you live. As one of many people interested in the subject matter, I want the government to fund more science of all kinds, especially in space and biology. It's damaging to require science to have immediate payoffs. You're simply hitting nearby targets. Funding all science for the sake of knowledge EXPOSES more targets, letting us know the possibilities. THEN we can let the free market work on
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FireFury03 (653718)
      Lets focus our space program on useful tasks such as orbital solar energy collection and leave the fruitless search for extraterrestrial life to the hobbiests.

      How do you know what will be useful in the future? Many useful technologies we take for granted to day are the products of research into things that were not obviously going to be useful at the time. If you limit all your research to only things which are immediately useful you are seriously limiting the speed of advancement.

      For the most part, comme
  • "Controversial research questions the moon's promise as a target in the search for life beyond Earth."

    You are never going to get an NSF grant for research like that. I'll help you with the abstract. Start like this: "Life possible in habitat previously thought to be too harsh." Then hand wave a bit about the elements you have found and any formation that might conceivably be formed by a liquid, and ... BAM! Research money.

    You're welcome.
  • by J05H (5625) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @01:18AM (#21748510) Homepage
    Subject asks it all. Would it be possible for Enceladus to be pure ices with little or no rocks? It is a round moon, so it should be differentiated. Could that differentiation be layers of ices (say water Ice III below, leading up to softer ices including other volatiles) without rocks? Enceladus could still have an ocean, just one without rocks. This presents potential life-genesis issues (which generally require rock-chemistry) but presents no inherent conflict with the idea of it having an ocean.

    Josh
  • Clearly, there are Thetans down there that cannot stomache the enchilada...
  • by Composite_Armor (1203112) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @03:09AM (#21749038)
    Someone needs to look at this from a thermodynamic perspective. If there is in fact water on Saturn's moon, it must come from the surface. I am not sure why orbiting clouds of frozen water vapor (which i believe must have sublimated from the icy surface) are expected to contain Sodium. Thermodynamically speaking, species with low mass, and high activity (The light elements H, N, O, C, F) tend to undergo phase change before more heavy elements. These low density gases would exit into the moons atmosphere more readily than a sodium atom, even if the surface contained equal concentrations of all. (on wiki it says the atmosphere is Water, 4%Nitrogen, 3.2%CO2, and 1.7%CH4) makes sense so far, Also, i believe that if there was an ocean on this moon, the surface must be ice of near pure water. If water is going to freeze, it will do so first with minimal sodium. The sodium content in the ice will increase when the ocean concentration rises, eventually precipitating solid sodium compound when a saturation limit is reached. This only means that the outer shell of the moons frozen surface might be mostly clean ice I believe any sodium that could be detected in orbit must first diffuse to the surface through this concentration gradient. And then gain sufficient activation energy from the suns rays to enter the gas phase for an instant. I think these scientists could be looking for the wrong indicator. If we are searching for water, shouldn't we be searching for water? It is possible they have the right idea, but our instruments are not precise enough to measure such a small Sodium concentration. And i'm not sure the Seas of Saturn will follow our earthbound concepts of oceanography.
  • sad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by m2943 (1140797) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @05:15AM (#21749556)
    The Enceladus flagship mission is one of four - along with those to Europa, Titan and Jupiter - competing for funding and currently under review by Nasa.

    It's sad that not all four of them get funded. This kind of mission is much more important and interesting than the shuttle.
  • At midnight, on the 12th of August, a huge mass of luminous gas erupted from Enceladus and sped towards Earth. Across two hundred million miles of void, invisibly hurtling towards us, came the first of the missiles that were to bring so much calamity to Earth. As I watched, there was another jet of gas. It was another missile, starting on its way.
    And that's how it was for the next ten nights. A flare, spurting out from Enceladus. Bright green, drawing a green mist behind it; a beautiful, but somehow disturb

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