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Saturn's Moon Enceladus Has Global Subsurface Ocean 72

An anonymous reader writes: NASA's Cassini probe has made another fascinating discovery: Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons, has an underground ocean spanning its entire globe. Researchers were trying to explain why the moon wobbles as it orbits Saturn, and they eventually came to the conclusion that its outer shell must be completely detached from its core. "The mechanisms that might have prevented Enceladus' ocean from freezing remain a mystery. Thomas and his colleagues suggest a few ideas for future study that might help resolve the question, including the surprising possibility that tidal forces due to Saturn's gravity could be generating much more heat within Enceladus than previously thought."
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Saturn's Moon Enceladus Has Global Subsurface Ocean

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  • Slashdot ads (Score:3, Insightful)

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  • by RenHoek ( 101570 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2015 @01:18AM (#50529719) Homepage

    I'm sure I'm wrong considering the laws of thermodynamics and all, but if a moon is heated by gravitational shifting, does this go on for ever? I.e. is this a perpetuum mobile?

    • ... if a moon is heated by gravitational shifting, does this go on for ever?

      No, the orbit eventually decays.

    • by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2015 @02:22AM (#50529827)

      No. Energy is being taken out every time. At some point it will become tidally locked, just like the Moon (of earth) and then the heating will stop.


      • by Anonymous Coward

        No. Energy is being taken out every time. At some point it will become tidally locked, just like the Moon (of earth) and then the heating will stop.


        Then all the fish freeze.

        • Unless the Monolith implodes the planet into an artificial star.


  • Unknown energy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spinalcold ( 955025 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2015 @02:29AM (#50529847)
    and yet again a moon/planet is getting power by some unknown mechanism, Pluto was the other recent find. This is fascinating news! I wonder if it could be a combination of many, many small factors. Physicists (and I am studying it as an undergrad) are very prone to hacking off small factors when calculating things, thinking small factors don't contribute to the overall result, and most of the time they don't. But all the tiny factors like neutrino's, radioactive particles, other stars, gamma rays, etc etc, is there any way that the combined contribution could add up to the energy, or even a part of it, that we are failing to find? The rest of that unknown could be...I don't know, one of those energy's we are still trying to figure out, like Dark Energy or the new evidence for the Z', W' force...

    I'm just throwing spit at a wall here cause it's fun. And fascinating.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I guess you're not very far along in your physics studies, because you seem to lack a basic grasp of how sciene works. If for some reason you wish to posit the theory that Enceladus' ocean is kept unfrozen by the cumulative effect of energy from neutrinos and cosmic rays and such (and traditionally one would first eliminate more likely theories before going for the fringe stuff), by all means do so. Do some back-of-the-napkin calculations to figure out how much energy would be required from all those trace

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It is not an unknown mechanism. Io is tidally locked but is heated from tidal forces due to orbit eccentricity (that is maintained due to other moons). Enceladus has half the orbital distance of Io and is in a more eccentric orbit, so it shouldn't be a surprise that it is tidally heated. The big thing is knowing what is made of to have some idea what that heating does.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Haha, that's exactly my attitude too :) It's almost a running joke that you launch a probe to anything in space and find out that it has an unexpectedly large amount of energy input ;) And I agree with your assessment that there's probably no single factor, just a lot of different energy sources that people haven't thought of. Unfortunately, humans tend to go into each situation with the blinders of experience, expecting things to be like that which we've already seen. The reality can be incredibly differ

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        That said, I don't think that, say, gamma rays, neutrinos, etc would ever be a relevant energy source. But things that people don't immediately think of certainly could be. For example, in the above Pluto case: if you have a heavier nitrogen ice layer over a lighter water ice layer, and a chunk of the ice breaks through and floats to the surface... that's an energy input. That's moving the system to a lower energy state. In Enceladus, one energy source that's now believed to be going on is serpentinization

        • Thanks for your very informative response. That superfluid calculation is extremely fascinating! For some reason I never thought of superfluids in moons and other objects, I have a tendency to think of that as specifically a man made thing--my bad!

          I highly doubt neutrinos would actually be a heating source as well, I was just naming off mechanisms off the top of my head, not being series. As for gamma's, not in any large manner either, I was instead imagining VERY small pockets of heating, melting a s
    • The speculation on Pluto's dynamic surface is that as it cycles closer and further from the sun, the substances on its surface change densities relative to each other, creating a kind of pumping action.

      For example, at the furthest point from the sun, substance A may be denser than substance B. But it could reverse near the closest point to the sun if A expands more than B under the increased heat (at that temperature). Thus A is pushed beneath B for part of the orbit, and then B is pushed beneath A for the

  • by Aku Head ( 663933 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2015 @04:31AM (#50530043) Journal
    The geysers could spit them out and they would fall back to the surface. We need an orbiter to fly through those plumes and measure what is in them.
  • Mmmmh, aren't _all_ oceans subsurface if you really consider it?

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2015 @08:20AM (#50530805) Journal
    That is nothing man, nothing. There is a planet with a huge subsurface ocean of iron! Yes, iron in liquid form, molten iron. It is roiling too. And because iron is magnetic the oceanic currents of this iron ocean creates a powerful magnetic field. The magnetic field powerful enough to deflect the charge particle wind from its parent star several at a distance of several planetary diameters away. The entire planet behaves as thought it has a permanent bar magnet placed along its axis! Further more these iron ocean current weaken over time, change directions and flip the polarity of the planetary magnet.

    This ocean of molten iron exists just 1% of the planetary radius below the surface. Most people don't realize how close they are to this bizarre weird incredible iron ocean.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This ocean of molten iron exists just 1% of the planetary radius below the surface.

      Umm, more like 45% of the radius down. The mantle is a slowly forming, more plastic like rock, while the liquid iron outer core is much further down.

  • by seven of five ( 578993 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2015 @09:40AM (#50531559)
    All these worlds are yours, except Euro^H^H^Hnceladus.
    Attempt no landings there.
  • I wonder what the chances are that, like Earth, it might have a core that's undergoing slow fission...

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll