Salt in Enceladus’ Geysers Hints at Subsurface Liquid Ocean

Article written: 29 Apr , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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Planetary scientists say the geysers shooting from Saturn’s moon Enceladus are likely to come from a subsurface sea of liquid water. During the Cassini spacecraft’s fly-through of the geyser’s plume on October 9, 2008, the instruments on board were able to measure the molecular weight of the chemicals in the ice. Detected were traces of sodium in the form of salt and sodium bicarbonate. The chemicals would have originated in the rocky core of Enceladus, so to reach a plume they must have leached from the core via liquid water.

Frank Postberg of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany, and colleagues, are presenting their findings at the European Geophysical Union meeting in Vienna this week.

Although the salt could have been leached out by an ancient ocean which since been frozen solid, that freezing process would concentrate most of the salt very far from the surface of the moon’s ice, says Julie Castillo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, quoted in New Scientist. “It is easier to imagine that the salts are present in a liquid ocean below the surface,” she says. “That’s why this detection, if confirmed, is very important.”

Observations of the plumes from Earth in 2007 detected no sign of sodium, casting doubt on such a subsurface sea. But the new in-situ detection may change our understanding of Enceladus’ geysers.

Source: New Scientist


6 Responses

  1. Feenixx says

    I am absolutely fascinated with Enceladus and Cassini. In “another life”, I work in movie post production, making visual effects and soundtracks. Sometimes, I compose music for the fun, and I made a piece about Cassini flying through the plume – it’s called “Enceladus Encounter”.

    I hope nobody is going to suspend or ban me for telling where it can be found – I’m not “marketing” my work, o.k.? It’s free to enjoy.

    http://www.icompositions.com/music/song.php?sid=97171

  2. Jon Hanford says

    @Feenix; What an awesome composition inspired by current science being done concerning Enceladus. I may try to add your soundtrack to my large collection of pix & movies of Enceladus for a (strictly personal) audio-visual file. Have you given this idea any thought. Anyway, great to ‘hear’ from a space devotee inspired enough to create an auditory response to some of these visceral images.

  3. Feenixx- very nice! Its a great mix of sounds. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Feenixx says

    thanks, Jon Hanford, feel free to use it.
    Just stick a small credit line on the title screen and say “with permission”.
    And thanks, Nancy – I’m glad you like it.

  5. Astrofiend says

    Nice Feenixx.

    What did you make it on – Reason, Cubase etc? Or have you got real equipment?

  6. Feenixx says

    @ Astrofiend: No real equipment – it’s all “fake” (unlike Nancy Atkinson’s own music recording) – a Software sampler, a MIDI controller, and some pre-recorded soundbites…. and Logic Studio.

    I have to stop answering OT questions now – or else, The Powers That Be will ban me… 😉

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