S&T: The Subsurface Ocean of Enceladus

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S&T: The Subsurface Ocean of Enceladus

Post by Ann » Sat Apr 05, 2014 8:18 pm

The Subsurface Ocean of Enceladus
Data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have provided further evidence that Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus harbors a liquid ocean under its surface.

One of the biggest surprises of the ongoing NASA Cassini mission was the discovery that Enceladus — a tiny moon orbiting Saturn — spews water vapor and water-ice crystals from its south pole. A moon with a diameter roughly the size of Great Britain was expected to be frozen solid and certainly not active. Instead, the observations suggested that Enceladus, stretched and squeezed by Saturn’s powerful gravity, actually has a deep subsurface ocean.

But until today astronomers could only speculate on the specifics of the ocean. Luciano Iess (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy) and an international team analyzed new data from the Cassini spacecraft and revealed the mass and geometry of a thick subsurface ocean 30 to 40 kilometers (18 to 24 miles) beneath the moon’s icy south pole.

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