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Cassini Spots Geysers On Saturn's Moon Enceladus

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  • by ChrisCampbell47 (181542) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @12:49PM (#28468063)
    The geysers are old news. The new news is that Cassini has detected SALTS in Saturn's rings, pointing to a possible salty ocean under the icy surface of Enceladus.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Are these similar to the methane geysers which were found recently to shoot out of Uranus ?

    • So these are old geysers who DON'T complain about people being worth their salt? Wow, it really is an alien world.

    • by sznupi (719324) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @04:23PM (#28471511) Homepage

      I wonder...

      So we have this moon that possibly has life in its ocean. And geysers which put this water into known orbits. Together with the water they put salts. And life - if one exists there.

      So..."orbital scoop" flying for few years has a big chance to catch some microbes for the ride. Unfortunatelly...it will be probably several more decades before the next mission to Saturn; several more decades before we can sent purpose built spacecraft.

      However...we already have a spacecraft that was flying there for quite some time. Perhaps, once RTGs deplete to such a degree that the scientific package will have to be largery shut down, it is sensible to:

      1) put Cassini into orbit which maximalises probabilities of catching something for the ride (and without too much risk of hitting some ice block)

      2) after several more years - bring Cassini back (through http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interplanetary_Transport_Network [wikipedia.org] for example). Put it into stable, high Earth orbit where it can wait for us to have means to investigate it (too bad we get rid of Shuttles, they would be usefull for that oe thing...)

      It seems to me to be much better conclusion of the mission (even we won't find any signs of life on it) than sending it plunging towards Saturn...

  • We know what these planets consist of. We know of some pretty crazy bacteria here on earth. Why not shoot a rocket full of random bacteria that can survive our most extreme conditions to places like these?

    If I recall correctly NASA has always been super careful about bacteria on space vehicles. Why don't we just infect everything and kick start this whole ET thing ourselves.

    • by MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @12:57PM (#28468203)

      that seems like a pretty dumb idea. if there is any life outside our earth, sending life forms into its habitat could be incredibly destructive. the idea isn't to kill everything we see (though humans are good at that, i'll admit) its to learn about what might be out there.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Of course once we have verified it is devoid of life it's actually a good idea.

        • by gnick (1211984) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @01:12PM (#28468421) Homepage

          To what end? The same thing has occurred to me, but I can't fathom a useful end-product. If we want to study the behavior of exotic bacteria/whatever, we can replicate the conditions here on Earth much more cheaply than rocketing them off into space (not to mention they'd be much easier to watch/study). And if you've got some fantasy of them evolving into super-fish or whatever, you'd better be REALLY patient. (And, again, even if you're hoping for macro-evolution, we could replicate the environment more easily than visiting it.) If it's dead, I see no benefit of adding life.

          My vote - It's much more interesting to just keep it pristine and see what's there (even if it's nothing.) And, if there is life, it would be far more interesting to see something (however primitive) that had a fresh start rather than something that started here.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by WillDraven (760005)

            In my opinion giving life in general a chance to continue should something happen to the Earth is a worthy enough cause. I've often dreamt of designing autonomous starships that investigate stellar systems. If there is no life there they would seed the planets with hardy bacteria, mine some material to replicate itself, and sends a copy or two of itself on to the next star systems while it parks in orbit or on a moon somewhere to wait and greet anything intelligent that might evolve and tell them where they

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by smaddox (928261)

              Seeding, mining, and replicating maybe, but waiting around for billions of years for intelligent life to evolve? Unlikely.

            • by smaddox (928261)

              I just had a random idea, actually. What if you could create a bacteria that harboured all of the DNA of terrestial creatures, but did not activate any of it. Instead it only activates the DNA needed for the bacteria to survive. I'm not a biologist, but it seems like having a store of genes could speed up evolution. Not fast enough to watch, but maybe speed it up by 10x. Of course, that assumes that the genes are useful in the new environment.

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by Taint Bearer (957479)
                I am a biologist. Any bacteria which had that much DNA would pretty much use most of it for fuel, as it would be much to costly to replicate when the cell divides. Bacteria are able to take on DNA from the external environment so a better idea would be to seed the planet with vesicles filled with random sections of DNA taken from other bacteria that utilise other energy sources. This may assist in speeding up evolution, IF the genes are stable enough to last long enough for them to be useful. However, th
          • Reasons why we should teraform Saturn's moon if it is, in fact, dead:

            1) To see if we can.

            Setting up outposts for mining, travel, prisoners, farming, storage, research, or anything else is secondary and uninteresting compared to the first. We are simply driven to see something else living outside of our own fishbowl.
          • by T Murphy (1054674)
            To me the greater point of finding ET life is not so much to see what it is like (although that should be interesting), but to gain more knowledge of how life started. We have our ideas of what it took to start life, and how it managed to survive, but one data point (Earth) isn't a very good sample. If it started in a similar fashion, we learn more about Earth, and if it started in a different way, we get a ton of new information we likely would never come across on Earth.
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Taint Bearer (957479)

              one data point (Earth) isn't a very good sample. If it started in a similar fashion, we learn more about Earth, and if it started in a different way, we get a ton of new information we likely would never come across on Earth.

              Exactly right. If we can find life on a moon around a gas giant that is not in the "Goldilocks Zone" then this vastly increases the chances of life existing elsewhere in the universe. Also, assuming for a moment that life DOES exist in places other than earth, if the life found on Enceladus it is from a different biological origin to us, then this would increase the chances of us being able to study other life forms that we discover, as earth-based biology is also only a single data point.

          • To what End? I think our contribution to this universe should be the perpetuation of life, even if it isn't our own. Who knows how many times this miracle has happened elsewhere? I think it has, but I don't assume it. If we can verify that a planet is lifeless, I'm all for seeding planets. And, the moon is a pretty "pristine" ball of rock if you want to look at it that way.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by doconnor (134648)

          "Maybe it's something we can transplant?"

        • Life -- loathe it or hate it, you can't ignore it.

          Don't talk to ME about life!

      • by vamidus (920823)
        ...and once we learn all about what might be out there, we kill it!
      • by Javarufus (733962)

        Hold on now...now, without ruffling any religious feathers, how do you know that we weren't created as a result of some alien spacecraft emitting some propellant or other chemicals into a pile of protein soup (with or without their knowledge)?

        Look what they've been missing! We're a bunch of fat, lazy, over-rewarded hypocrites that are too lazy to go out to eat and instead elect to have it delivered to us for every meal.

        That and we wrap everything in bacon. Hmmm, bacon. Sorry Jim Gaffigan, I'm taking your

    • I like it.

      Besides, the more I learn about the human body, the more convinced our real purpose is to move bacteria around, so this is a logic extension of out purpose.

    • If I recall correctly NASA has always been super careful about bacteria on space vehicles. Why don't we just infect everything and kick start this whole ET thing ourselves.

      I agree. We should Intelligently Design such a system to deploy the bacteria in such a way to give maximum chance of life.

    • by Dr_Ken (1163339)

      We know what these planets consist of. We know of some pretty crazy bacteria here on earth. Why not shoot a rocket full of random bacteria that can survive our most extreme conditions to places like these?

      If I recall correctly NASA has always been super careful about bacteria on space vehicles. Why don't we just infect everything and kick start this whole ET thing ourselves.

      What! And violate the Prime Directive. [70disco.com]

    • About 50 Martian meteors have been discovered so- mostly on Antarctica glaciers. Thats probably a tiny fraction of thousands upon thousands to have rained upon the Earth. Couple this with discoveries that bacteria apparently have lived inside of rock deep in the Earth for tens of millions of year and you have a mechanism of infecting the entire solar system over the eons. Gravity wells make some transport directions more likely than others. But over the vast amounts of time probably samples of every planet
    • by Tablizer (95088)

      We know of some pretty crazy bacteria here on earth.

      Widening your dating options, eh? I know the feeling.
           

  • by MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @12:55PM (#28468161)

    My understanding is that the major thing of interest is that there is _salt water_ on this moon. salt usually comes from rocks and to get it into water pretty much requires _liquid_ water, therefore the possibility of a life sustaining habitat. the geysers indicate is its possible that it has a liquid core, though i could be mistaken on that part.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 25, 2009 @12:57PM (#28468197)

    It means that if we find some kind of intelligent shrimp on Enceladus we will be able to eat them without adding salt.

  • but isn't it more amazing there is salt there then the possibility of water?

    *Likely

    • Kind of. What is most amazing is that salt on the water can, almost guaranteed, come from liquid water dissolving rocks. That's what's so good about this discovery.
  • Which System? (Score:1, Informative)

    by theCoder (23772)

    ...the odds of extraterrestrial life in our own Solar System.

    There is only one Solar System in the entire galaxy. This is because the name the star that Earth orbits is "Sol", hence the Solal System. There are other stellar systems (I think that's the right phrase) out there, but only one Solar System.

  • by deglr6328 (150198) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @01:02PM (#28468285)

    ...that's where I get all my planetary science news! not [nature.com]. also [nasa.gov]. also [colorado.edu]. Why do people do this? This is the internet, not your local morning paper. You can go wherever you want to get this information. WHY NOT GO DIRECTLY TO THE SOURCE!?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      WHY NOT GO DIRECTLY TO THE SOURCE!?

      Thus far, both the Cassini probe and Enceladusians have not responded to my requests for interviews.

    • by T Murphy (1054674)
      The source is strong with this one.
    • by mcgrew (92797)

      I've had the same gripe, but it's worse when you submit a story linking to site such as you pointed to, and after it's shot down, a week later somebody else posts the same story and links to FOX news.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This cracked me up int the article, "...hundreds of kilometres (miles) into space,..". Since when did miles and kilometers become interchangeable? Might have as well put the word 'kilometers' in the parenthesis...

      • Both units of distance and, to within the accuracy of the quantity given, they're equivalent. So... yeah, it's valid.

  • Since the presence of geysers doesn't increase the likelihood of life, which would require a much more complex set of conditions and events to occur.
    You might as well write "Iron detected on Enceladus, increasing the likelihood of Cadillac Dealerships."

  • Yes, it's boosting the odds from 1 in 800 kazillion to 1 in 799.999999999 kazillion.

  • Looking at the size of those things makes me think a sample return will be pretty easy; we won't need a plan for leaving the surface, just good timing getting into the hole.
  • Enchiladas (Score:3, Funny)

    by Saint Stephen (19450) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @01:29PM (#28468727) Homepage Journal

    Did anyone else read that as Moon Enchiladas?

    Mmmm.. Moon enchiladas...

    • Smothered with Earth moon cheese, and we've got ourselves a party!
    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Did anyone else read that as Moon Enchiladas? Mmmm.. Moon enchiladas...

      And Jupiter's moon Io looks like pizza:

      http://www.astronet.ru/db/xware/msg/1159737 [astronet.ru]

      Now all we need is a hamburger moon and a fries moon(s), and the junkfoodification of the solar system is complete. (I hear Enceladus' geysers taste like coke, so we got that covered.)

         

  • From TFA, "Saturn moon may contain life". And I thought slashdot used sensationalist headlines! This amounts to slightly more evidence that Enceladus may be capable of supporting life, no evidence of the existence of life at all. Given the extreme conditions that bacteria have already been found under, there are LOTS of extraterrestrial objects capable of supporting life. Get back to me when Cassini captures a photo of a penguin waving...
    • by Owlyn (1390895)

      Get back to me when Cassini captures a photo of a penguin waving...

      Ah, an advanced form of life using Linux.

  •   Ok, so let's suppose life, in some primitive form, maybe even up to the level of crustaceans are found in these oceans. The first-non-Earth life, and quite exciting, sure.

      I'm unsure how this challenges the religious life-origin stories around the world. Any one wants to take a stab at predicting the reactions from the traditional Earth-centric worldviews?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FiloEleven (602040)

      That's easy: the fundamentalist religious groups will do their damnedest to ignore it or try to spin it away, the fundamentalist secular groups will do their damnedest to claim that the findings refute all religion, and everyone else will assimilate the information and get on with their lives.

    • Any one wants to take a stab at predicting the reactions from the traditional Earth-centric worldviews?

      Denial.

    • to quote one of my favorite movies "Contact":
      Ellie Arroway: [to a group of children] I'll tell you one thing about the universe, though. The universe is a pretty big place. It's bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it's just us... seems like an awful waste of space. Right?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sznupi (719324)

      They will just say "ahh, another glorious creation of gods". They've shown many times that inconsistent/false passages in "holy" texts can be ignored, new doctrines introduced.

      It will get interesting only when we discover intelligent life that, during its evolution, didn't need the concept of gods. Though this is likely, IMHO, only in forms of intelligence that are NOT fragile, individual units (which feel the need to control the scary world, hence - gods, prayers, and so on), in case of hive-mind for examp

    • I know of no religion that denies the possibilty of extraterrestrial life.

  • An underground ocean (which is what they predict is there causing the saltwater Geysers) is huge news for the idea of colonizing the planet.

    That would mean we have Liquid water, and a source of energy (tides created by the planet). Build a Greenhouse, a Distillery, set up some Lights BAM
    FARMS IN SPACE

  • Popplers or tastesicles.

    Hopefully, it's popplers.

Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.

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