Feeds

Boffins spy liquid water on Saturn's moon

Enceladus is a hydrated mistress

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

There's little doubt now that the Saturn moon Enceladus hides a vast, liquid ocean beneath its icy surface.

Massive plumes of water vapor discovered by Cassini in 2005 sparked speculation of sub-surface liquid water within the tiny moon. Later, fly-bys found that the massive geysers - whose jet steams supply the material for Saturn's outer-most ring - contain traces of sodium — believed to be the signature of a large body of liquid water with long periods of contact to minerals deep inside Enceladus.

Now, a team of scientists from University College London's Mullard Space Science Laboratory say data from the intrepid probe's plasma spectrometer has found negatively charged water molecules in the jet spray. On Earth's surface, such ions are present where liquid water is in motion, such as waterfalls or ocean waves.

"While it's no surprise that there is water there, these short-lived ions are extra evidence for sub-surface water," said Andrew Coates of Mullard Space Science Lab in a statement. "And where there's water, carbon and energy, some of the major ingredients for life are present."

The findings are based on data taken in a Cassini plume fly-through conducted in 2008 and reported in the trade journal Icarus.

Last week, NASA announced it would once again extend the probe's mission to explore Saturn and its moons to 2017. The project was originally scheduled to end in 2008, but the mission received a 27-month reprieve to September 2010.

"This is a mission that never stops providing us surprising scientific results and showing us eye popping new vistas," said Jim Green, director of NASA's planetary science division in a statement. "The historic traveler's stunning discoveries and images have revolutionized our knowledge of Saturn and its moons."

NASA said the latest extension will allow scientists to continue to ogle and observe Saturn's rings and the magnetic bubble around the planet.

Thus far, Cassini has beamed home more than 210,000 images, made 125 revolutions around Saturn, 67 flybys of Titan, and eight close flybys of Enceladus. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.