NASA finds hidden water ocean in Saturn moon

NASA finds evidence of a hidden ocean inside Saturn’s moon Enceladus

With the use of its Cassini spacecraft and the Deep Space Orbiting Network, NASA has potentially discovered evidence for the presence of an ocean of liquid water locked away beneath the thick, icy crust of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus.

Researchers had believed in the possibility of an underground body of water ever since jets of water vapor were detected venting from the moon’s southern pole in 2005, however until now this line of reasoning had been purely conjecture.

Evidence for the existence of the hidden sea came in the form of gravity fluctuations detected by Cassini as it orbited the icy moon. The trajectory of a spacecraft is heavily influenced by variations in the gravity field of the celestial body that it’s orbiting. These variations could be caused either by surface features such as a mountain range, a trench, or subterranean features such as a body of water.

The variations manifest themselves as alterations to the spacecraft’s velocity, which in turn is read by the team back on Earth in the form of a radio signal, sent between Cassini and the Deep Space Network. This method can detect variations in the velocity of the spacecraft as minute as a drift of one foot per hour, and in essence has provided researchers with their first look at the interior composition of the moon.

Gravity measurements by NASA's Cassini spacecraft and Deep Space Network suggest that Saturn's moon Enceladus, which has jets of water vapor and ice gushing from its south pole, also harbors a large interior ocean beneath an ice shell, as this illustration depicts. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Gravity measurements by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft and Deep Space Network suggest that Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which has jets of water vapor and ice gushing from its south pole, also harbors a large interior ocean beneath an ice shell, as this illustration depicts.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In the case of Enceladus, the orbiting spacecraft detected a dip in the force of gravity exerted by the moon, which was evidence of a surface depression at the south pole. However, upon inspection, the depression was deeper than expected based on the severity of the dip in gravitational force.

“There must be a denser material at depth that compensates the missing mass: very likely liquid water, which is seven percent denser than ice,” explained Luciano Less, lead author of a paper detailing the research. “The magnitude of the anomaly gave us the size of the water reservoir.”

The measurements taken by Cassini suggest that the denser body of material is roughly six miles (10 km) beneath the moon’s surface. Whilst there is no definitive proof that the dense material detected by Cassini is an underground ocean, the theory does fit the readings sent back by the spacecraft. The main reason for the excitement generated by the discovery is that the ocean environment possibly present under the surface of Enceladus is now one of the most attractive prospects for the discovery of extraterrestrial microbial life.

Linda Spilker, Cassini’s project scientist at JPL, stated that the discovery “expanded our view of the ‘habitable zone’ within our solar system and in planetary systems of other stars.” This revelation will pique scientific curiosity in Enceladus, which will undoubtedly be the subject of more attention in the years to come.

CSG has written various articles about ‘Universe’. You can view some of them below.

For more CSG articles related to ‘Universe’, click here.

Source | NASA | GizMag

Find us here

Get news from the CSGLOBE in your inbox each weekday morning

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors/source and do not necessarily reflect the position of CSGLOBE or its staff.

Paid content

The 10 Biggest Dangers Posed By Future Technology

It’s not easy predicting the future of technology. In the fifties it seemed a pretty much foregone conclusion that by 2015 we would all...

If You’re Alive in 30 Years, it’s Likely You Will be Alive in 1000 Years

Life extension is no joke. It's being pursued, avidly, by the chief engineer at Google, Ray Kurzweil, and is increasingly popular, with some scientists...

Did we discover “Alien technology” and reverse-engineer it?

A lot of people have wondered ever since the first reported UFO crash, if we had come into contact with Alien technology. Highly advanced technology...

What's New Today

Georgia House Votes To Allow Citizens To Abolish Police Departments In The State

The Georgia House backed an effort on Friday to dissolve the Glynn County Police Department and any...

Leaked CDC document contradicts Pence claim that U.S. coronavirus cases ‘have stabilized’

Even as Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Tuesday that coronavirus...

Five bombshells about Trump from Bolton ‘s book

Excerpts from former national security adviser John Bolton ’s book about his time in the Trump administration...

Don’t Listen to Fox. Here’s What’s Really Going On in Seattle’s Protest Zone.

It seems I live in a city undergoing a “totalitarian takeover” that will lead to “fascist outcomes”...

MOST READ

What Is Agenda 21? Depopulation of 95% of the World By 2030

Most people are unaware that one of the greatest threats to their freedom may be a United Nations program which plans to depopulate 95%...

Don’t Listen to Fox. Here’s What’s Really Going On in Seattle’s Protest Zone.

It seems I live in a city undergoing a “totalitarian takeover” that will lead to “fascist outcomes”...

Five bombshells about Trump from Bolton ‘s book

Excerpts from former national security adviser John Bolton ’s book about his time in the Trump administration...

The 10 Biggest Dangers Posed By Future Technology

It’s not easy predicting the future of technology. In the fifties it seemed a pretty much foregone conclusion that by 2015 we would all...

Study: Smoking Cannabis Causes Complete Remission of Crohn’s Disease in 45% of Patients

Crohn’s disease inflames the intestines of about 400,000-600,000 North Americans. In the study, published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, there were 21 people...

New Light-Converting Materials: Solar, LEDs

Crystal light: New family of light-converting materials points to cheaper, more efficient solar power and LEDs Engineers have shone new light on an emerging family...

Say cheese! Hubble telescope captures extraterrestrial smiley face

The Hubble spotted this smiley face in space Pictures of space get a lot of smiles around here, but it's pretty rare for one of...

Water Facts: Disease

Diarrhea is more prevalent throughout the developing world largely due to the lower levels of access to safe drinking water and sanitation, along with...

Monsanto Wants Reporter Fired for Exposing GMO Dangers

Monsanto Wants 14-Year Reuters Veteran Reporter Fired for Talking About GMO Dangers First Monsanto took over our Congress, then our Supreme Court, and now they...

Norway Becomes First Nation In The World To Ban Deforestation

Did you know? Every year, an estimated 55 billion tons of fossil energy, minerals, metals, and bio mass is extracted from the Earth. As a...

Colombian Town Rejects $35 Billion Gold Mine in Preference of Clean Air, Water, Simple Life

The World Bank wants its gold mining project in Cajamarc, Colombia badly, but the people of this small town just voted against the mammoth...