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Space Science

Oxygen Found Around Saturn's Moon Dione 58

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-plan-vacation-just-yet dept.
New submitter S810 writes "According to an article in Discovery News, oxygen was found by the Cassini spacecraft around Dione, one of Saturn's large moons. 'It is thought the oxygen is being produced via interactions between Saturn's powerful radiation belts and Dione's water ice. The radiation breaks the water molecules down, liberating oxygen into the moon's exosphere.' Hopefully this will open the door for more funding of research int the moons of Saturn and Jupiter."
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Oxygen Found Around Saturn's Moon Dione

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  • by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Friday March 02, 2012 @03:52PM (#39223869)
    aliens [photobucket.com]
  • Why... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij (1206448)

    Should I care and why would anyone increase funding because of this?
    Radiation + Water can often release O^n, this is pretty common knowledge.
    And both radiation and water are common.

    • Re:Why... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Friday March 02, 2012 @04:08PM (#39224123)

      Research into the worlds and universe that surrounds us is always a worthy goal, certainly much more so than terrorising middle easterners for their fossil fuels, so stick your jutting lower lip back into your checkbook and contribute something useful.

      • by alienzed (732782)
        Couldn't we first ensure that we don't destroy this planet and perhaps feed every one on it first?
        • We already produce enough food to feed every human on the planet. The reason for starving people is an economic/political problem. E.G. Some areas of Africa got in a few wars and a lot of farmers died. International Aid agencies sent in food aid, for free to the local populace. Some of this was seized by the warlords, the rest drove the price of food low enough that the local farmers had no reason to farm, just take the aid food. A generation later, and all the farms are gone, and people are starving withou
          • by mccrew (62494)
            ...or put more simply:

            Name the last time a famine occurred in a democracy.

          • by demachina (71715)

            "we can produce the food easily"

            That is certainly a gross simplification. For one thing providing sufficient food currently involves something resembling strip mining the oceans and this has severely distressed a number of species. If we manage to crash enough species a significant part of our food supply will be gone.

            Producing food on farms is increasingly dependent on industrial farming techniques which, in particular, require high volumes of potassium, phosphorous and nitrogen fertilizer. Without indu

    • The article states that some of the other moons might also have oxygen and maybe thus sports some form of life. I assume that's the point behind the statement in the submission summary. Though it is definitely poorly worded.

      • Anybody (journalists) who thinks oxygen == life has completely misinterpreted James Lovelock.
      • Oxygen can be a signature of life, because plants produce it. But if they have a more likely source for this oxygen, like water and radiation, then it hardly seems like a good reason to expect life.

        Also I don't know the science behind it but just because all animals on earth need it is a bad reason to assume that all animal like life needs it (it is a common resource here so it is not a surprise that we use it).

        • by idontgno (624372)

          Oxygen can be a signature of life, because plants produce it.

          Plants liberate oxygen, not produce it. As far as I know, only nucleosynthesis can actually produce oxygen.

          And frankly, a lot of processes can liberate oxygen. As mentioned, water or other oxygen-bearing molecules disrupted by energetic particles or ionizing radiation.

          Also I don't know the science behind it but just because all animals on earth need it is a bad reason to assume that all animal like life needs it (it is a common resource here so

          • As far as I know, only nucleosynthesis can actually produce oxygen.

            I'm afraid you're mistaken. Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach are all on record as having produced Oxygen. I heard Oprah was also heavily involved.

        • I don't disagree with you. I'm just saying that is what the article states for the reason why it would lead to more research.

        • by nusuth (520833)

          Actually free oxygen is a signiture of life because it readily combines with something else in almost all imaginable planetary conditions. That means, if any oxygen is detected, it must be continiously produced. It is impossible that some oxygen stayed there for millions of years. Of course when you have an more likely explanation for oxygen production, such as this case, life need not be the reason for it.

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      You mean O_n, not O^n

    • by S810 (168676)

      According to the article: "This most recent discovery will no doubt give a boost to scientists lobbying for sending missions to the gas giant's satellites to search for alien life as, like the presence of liquid water, the presence oxygen could support microscopic lifeforms on other, more habitable moons."

      Science is alway looking for way to expand our knowledge...

      • Re:Why... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by demachina (71715) on Friday March 02, 2012 @04:56PM (#39224903)

        The obsession with "finding life" is a case of extremely misplaced priorities. It is a worthwhile pursuit, and I'm not saying it shouldn't be pursued but it should NOT be the primary focus of space exploration. Finding life in our solar system is not a particularly high probability and if you do manage it there is a fair chance its going to be microscopic, so making it a primary focus of your research effort is setting yourself up to fail. The longer you keep doing it, the more money you spend, and the longer you go finding nothing, the higher the probababilty the people who fund you, and the public in general, will lose interest in funding you.

        Things like asteroid resource exploration or Mars colonization would be goals that would have tangible benefits in the long term, and would actually justify substantial R&D funding, especially as Earth becomes more and more resource challenged.

        A pitch based on their being Oxygen around Saturn so its extremely urgent we go looking for life there rings like a desperate act of researchers wanting to get new funding. Its not a visionary pitch.

        • I agree completely. Any life we find close to Earth, while very interesting and a huge help in understanding exactly what life is, will not produce any tangible benefits while finding a planet full of useful resources very much could.

        • If there is oxygen there, then it's worth seeing if it can support human life, which would make it immensely more cost-effective to mine or colonize there? Even if it's too cold, if the atmosphere could support life then the main problem would be heating and possibly radiation shielding.

          A Wikipedia search suggests it can't, but if other moons could the point stands.

          • "possibly radiation shielding"

            The radiation there is strong enough to break up water into hydrogen and oxygen. You'll need quite a bit of it to survive, being a bag of mostly water.
    • by T.E.D. (34228)

      It is debatable how common water is outside Earth, and everywhere on Earth water is found, life is found, no matter how harsh the conditions. So it is generally a huge deal when the possibility of water is discovered on another planet.

      I think you just inadvertantly explained to everyone why this is in fact a big deal.

      • Water is only slightly less common then rock and vacume in outer-space (or at least in our section of it).

        Entire planets are made mostly of ice, as well as many meteors being full of the stuff.
        Liquid water is rather rare, but then we know where liquid water exists by how far away the closest star is.
        Unless you are talking about under the surface water.

        And where does this "everywhere on Earth water is found, life is found" come from? Life is found everywhere on earth except in magma perhaps. Water is also fo

  • The radiation breaks the water molecules down, liberating oxygen into the moon's exosphere.

    So what happens to the Hydrogen? (No of course I didn't RTFA! This is /.)

    • by zill (1690130)
      Hydrogen is much lighter so it either gets stripped away by solar wind or achieves escape velocity.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Some of it recombines with the oxygen and becomes water again, but almost all of it, being lighter than the rest of the atmosphere, just floats off into space.

  • My bad.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by newsman220 (1928648) on Friday March 02, 2012 @04:08PM (#39224129)
    Sorry, I left the valve open. I'll go back and get it.
  • If you weren't too thrilled about Oxygen, then I suppose you could grab the remote and change it to the History Channel or something more stimulating.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    if the moon created beer.

  • oh, haha, int + o.
  • our oxygen creating Dione Warwick overlords

  • Between Europa at Jupiter (water and therefore oxygen) and this, it looks like we have some great candidates for spacecraft way stations on the way through the solar system, ala Discovery One [wikipedia.org].
  • If only there were an appropriate joke about Gaseous Rings in space.

  • From the article, "liquid water is key to the evolution of life" and "the radiation breaks the water molecules down". That means it's...less likely to contain life, right? Therefore it should...get more funding?

    The sun's mass is about 0.9% oxygen [wikipedia.org]. Therefore there should be more funding of research into the sun, because it might (not?) contain life?

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