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Space

Enceladus's 101 Geysers Blast From Hidden Ocean 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the say-it-don't-spray-it dept.
astroengine writes: New observations from NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft have revealed at least 101 individual geysers erupting from Enceladus' crust and, through careful analysis, planetary scientists have uncovered their origin. From the cracked ice in this region, fissures blast out water vapor mixed with organic compounds as huge geysers. Associated with these geysers are surface "hotspots" but until now there has been some ambiguity as to whether the hotspots are creating the geysers or whether the geysers are creating the hotspots. "Once we had these results in hand, we knew right away heat was not causing the geysers, but vice versa," said Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of one of the research papers. "It also told us the geysers are not a near-surface phenomenon, but have much deeper roots." And those roots point to a large subsurface source of liquid water — adding Enceladus as one of the few tantalizing destinations for future astrobiology missions.
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Enceladus's 101 Geysers Blast From Hidden Ocean

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  • ALIEN... bacteria!
    • Re:Astrobiology (Score:5, Insightful)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:41PM (#47560589) Homepage Journal

      Alien bacteria would be an amazing reinforcement of cell theory. All life on earth is made of cells, but it's easy to dismiss that as saying that any other suddenly emergent kinds of life couldn't compete against the already evolving cells that happened to come first.

      Finding truly alien bacteria would basically cement the idea that cells and life are synonymous.

      What I'm trying to say, haphazardly, is that any kind of alien life would have tremendously informative side effects for biology in general.

      • Re:Astrobiology (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mythosaz (572040) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @05:29PM (#47561431)

        Or, it would reinforce the idea that life spread uniformly through our solar system from some shared visitor in a wonderful accident of cosmic cross-contamination.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And what if it was virus?
      Viruses are considered by some to be a life form, because they carry genetic material, reproduce, and evolve through natural selection. However they lack key characteristics (such as cell structure) that are generally considered necessary to count as life. Because they possess some but not all such qualities, viruses have been described as "organisms at the edge of life" wikipedia

      • The thing about viruses is that they depend on cells to reproduce. They're life that's outsourced all the hard work of living: gathering energy, producing proteins, duplicating DNA.

        Discovering viruses is functionally equivalent to discovering bacteria, since they need the bacteria to exist.

        • by NIK282000 (737852)

          It would be interesting to find earth life on one of the solar system's icy moons. We have moon and Mars meteors falling to earth, what are the odds that a rock carrying hearty earth life made it out there?

          • what are the odds that a rock carrying hearty earth life made it out there?

            More interesting is whether a rock carrying hearty Enceladean life ever made it here.

      • by LduN (3754243)
        such as the descolada?
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The thing about alien life is that it is ALIEN. It may not conform to someone's narrow view of what life is. You could be looking right at it and not recognize it. Understandably we look for what we consider life because we know no other. I have to laugh at all the vegetarians because they are killing living things and eating them, but think meat eaters are the bad guys. Just because it doesn't have a face doesn't mean it is not alive.

      • If it's life, it's going to have a metabolism, it's going to reproduce and it's going to excrete. It may not, at first blush, look like life, but there will be chemical processes that in some way replicate processes found in terrestrial life.

        • by mythosaz (572040)

          As long as we define "life" as "life as we know it," sure.

          • Re:Astrobiology (Score:4, Informative)

            by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @06:05PM (#47561641) Journal

            And what would you define something that didn't ingest, metabolize, excrete, reproduce and have some sort of system of heredity? Other chemical processes; like fire and crystallization, might hit some of these marks, but we don't call them living systems. So while the precise chemical processes, heck maybe even many of the chemical elements involved may be different (silicon-based life on Titan or something like that), I think at the end of the day if it going to be called life, it has to have the same basic features as terrestrial life.

            • by mythosaz (572040)

              What I'm saying is that "we don't know what we don't know." Nothing more. Nothing less.

            • by Wycliffe (116160)

              And what would you define something that didn't ingest, metabolize, excrete, reproduce and have some sort of system of heredity? Other chemical processes; like fire and crystallization, might hit some of these marks, but we don't call them living systems. So while the precise chemical processes, heck maybe even many of the chemical elements involved may be different (silicon-based life on Titan or something like that), I think at the end of the day if it going to be called life, it has to have the same basic features as terrestrial life.

              Why does life have to ingest, excrete, etc?? That's a way too narrow of definition. Heck, you've almost managed to exclude
              plants. I'm not even sure something needs to reproduce to be considered life. If we found something moving and/or growing
              on the moon and that can respond to it's environment in a semintelligent way like bacteria then it would be hard to argue that
              it's not some form of life. We don't consider robots alive but finding the equivalent of a robot on mars would mean that it's
              either life o

          • To be fair, this is a relatively broad description. Most descriptions require H2O.

  • by CanEHdian (1098955) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @03:57PM (#47560753)

    ALL THESE WORLDS
    ARE YOURS EXCEPT
    ENCELADUS
    ATTEMPT NO
    LANDING THERE

    Well, let's hope if I add some lowercase that the filter will allow me to post. HAL 9000 communicated in capitals."

    • Mmm...tantalizing enchiladas...

  • They also found that narrow pathways through the ice shell can remain open from the sea all the way to the surface, if filled with liquid water.

    These open pathways are perfect channels to explore the hidden ocean below.

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