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Saturn's Moon Enceladus Has Underground Ocean 51

Posted by samzenpus
from the water-at-the-bottom-of-the-ocean dept.
astroengine (1577233) writes "Gravity measurements made with the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft indicate the small moon Enceladus has an ocean sandwiched between its rocky core and icy shell, a finding that raises the prospects of a niche for life beyond Earth. The Cassini data shows the body of water, which is in the moon's southern hemisphere, must be as large or larger than Lake Superior and sitting on top of the moon's rocky core at a depth of about 31 miles. 'The ocean may extend halfway or more toward the equator in every direction,' said planetary scientist David Stevenson, with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena."
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Saturn's Moon Enceladus Has Underground Ocean

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Obligatory SMBC [smbc-comics.com]

  • Life? I doubt it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Viol8 (599362) on Friday April 04, 2014 @04:47AM (#46658965)

    Its a tiny moon with very little energy internally and the rocky core has probably remained unchanged since the solar system was formed which means its unlikely to have much in the way of complex chemicals to kickstart anything. I doubt there's any subduction of the ice crust like on Europa so there's no way for anything to get down there either. If I was to lay money on it I'd say that water was about as sterile as you can get.

    But I hope I'm wrong.

    • Re:Life? I doubt it. (Score:4, Informative)

      by invictusvoyd (3546069) on Friday April 04, 2014 @05:22AM (#46659083)

      If I was to lay money on it I'd say that water was about as sterile as you can get.

      In earths underwater volcanic vents the environment is highly toxic with a high concentration of sulphur . The temperatures go up to 500 deg C .Life still flourishes . It is not carbon based life as we know , it is sulphur based life , deriving its energy from the vents. I'm not saying that means life will exist on europa or other similar moons but it's a demonstration of how simple life can exist in the most unforgiving conditions

      • by Viol8 (599362)

        Already pre-existing life adapting to living there is one thing - evolving there from base chemicals is another entirely.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Already pre-existing life adapting to living there is one thing - evolving there from base chemicals is another entirely.

          Except that hydrothermal vents are suspected to be a good contender for where life on Earth first evolved. [nature.com]

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It is not carbon based life as we know , it is sulphur based life ,

        It is still carbon based life as in they are still predominately made of carbon and made of the same building blocks as the rest of life on Earth. Their source of energy though is from a chemical process using the sulphur from vents, as opposed to the seemingly much more common use of photosynthesis and eating things with sugar, protein and fats.

      • by Dasher42 (514179)

        It does matter, though, where life starts and evolution takes it. Life is unlikely to emerge initially from the conditions most hostile to it, but given enough of an incubator, it can get started and incrementally evolve through natural selection to survive wherever there is something to feed it. Given that, Viol8 could be right. The energy and nutrient input isn't immediately obvious. ...Unless the tidal motion supplies energy, and organic compounds are widely spread throughout the universe and are pres

      • Sulphur-based life? I don't think so. They have a great deal of sulfide-based chemistry but their biology is still carbon-based.

    • Isn't there liquid water in the first place because of tidal heating? Tidal forces move some things around.
      Lack of sunlight including ultraviolets is the problem I think of, especially if the ocean is pretty much sealed from the surface as you speculate though there is cryvolcanism.

      • by Viol8 (599362)

        Water just sloshing around isn't going to do much on its own if the rocks its sitting on don't have anything complex enough to kick off whatever chemical reactions were the precursors to life.

  • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Friday April 04, 2014 @05:27AM (#46659107) Journal

    ...on the monolith declaring "All your worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there."

    "Oh, and also Enceladus on the next planet over. Thanks!"

  • by Alsee (515537)

    Magma.
    Molten ice.

    -

  • by Anonymous Coward

    the surface of a distant moon using sensors from a very long distance away, but we can't find a Boeing 777 that crashed right under our noses?

  • by Lanforod (1344011) on Friday April 04, 2014 @12:58PM (#46662197)
    Can't wait to ingest some enceladian alien bugs that will protect me from radiation!

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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