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posted by janrinok on Saturday March 14 2015, @10:59AM   Printer-friendly
from the thar-she-blows dept.

Silicon-rich nanometer scale particles have been detected by Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyser in ice plumes of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The presence of these minerals suggests that the water in the plumes interacted with rock at the core of Enceladus.

From the ESA website:

"these silicon-rich grains originate on the sea floor of Enceladus, where hydrothermal processes are at work. On the sea floor, hot water at a temperature of at least 90 degrees Celsius dissolves minerals from the moon’s rocky interior. The origin of this energy is not well understood, but likely includes a combination of tidal heating as Enceladus orbits Saturn, radioactive decay in the core and chemical reactions."

Coverage by the CBC suggests that the subsurface ocean environment on Enceladus could support microbial life, as it shares similarities with the hydrothermal vents in Earth's oceans.

The findings were published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

Related Stories

Complex Organic Molecules Found on Enceladus 4 comments

Saturn moon a step closer to hosting life

Scientists have found complex carbon-based molecules in the waters of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

Compounds like this have only previously been found on Earth, and in some meteorites. They are thought to have formed in reactions between water and warm rock at the base of the moon's subsurface ocean.

Though not a sign of life, their presence suggests Enceladus could play host to living organisms. The discovery came from data gathered by the Cassini spacecraft.

Also at SwRI, ScienceAlert, Space.com, National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, and The Guardian.

Macromolecular organic compounds from the depths of Enceladus (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0246-4) (DX)

Related: Minerals In Plumes of Enceladus Indicate Hydrothermal Activity
Hydrogen Emitted by Enceladus, More Evidence of Plumes at Europa
Could a Dedicated Mission to Enceladus Detect Microbial Life There?
How the Cassini Mission Led a 'Paradigm Shift' in Search for Alien Life
Cassini Spacecraft Post-Mortem
Porous Core Could be Keeping Enceladus Warm
Yuri Milner Considering Privately Funded Mission to Enceladus
Organic Molecules Found on Ceres
NASA Finds Evidence of Water Plume on Europa
Organic Matter Found on Mars
Study Finds Evidence of More Organic Material on Ceres


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  • (Score: 2) by dx3bydt3 on Saturday March 14 2015, @01:13PM

    by dx3bydt3 (82) on Saturday March 14 2015, @01:13PM (#157743)

    The hydrothermal vents here on earth support life without need of sunlight, so it is conceivable that the environment on Enceladus could as well. I wonder though if the conditions are hospitable enough for life to originate. Some believe that our hydrothermal vents could have been the point of origin for life on Earth, but organisms living around our deep sea vents could also have originated elsewhere and adapted to the conditions there.

    • (Score: 2) by rts008 on Saturday March 14 2015, @07:39PM

      by rts008 (3001) on Saturday March 14 2015, @07:39PM (#157831)

      I wonder if finding evidence of life there(someday) would not raise as many questions?
      Did it truly originate there? Panspermia mechanism? Alien contamination from much longer ago?

      Well, IMO, the evidence that life could exist there is enough reason to go look for it. I just wish that NASA's budget reflected my POV.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 14 2015, @09:15PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 14 2015, @09:15PM (#157853)

        Doesn't seem like jumping the gun to me. We're getting pretty good at autonomous landers, now it's time to work on robot "swimmers" that are hardened for that temperature.

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by o_o on Sunday March 15 2015, @01:36PM

    by o_o (1544) on Sunday March 15 2015, @01:36PM (#158013)

    The presence of these minerals suggests that the water in the plumes interacted with rock at the core of Enceladus.

    .. or it interacted with rock at the inner lithospehere of Enceladus. Or with rock at the outer lithosphere. Or with a layer of Silicon very close to the surface.

    "these silicon-rich grains originate on the sea floor of Enceladus

    that is, if it actually HAS one (sea)

    where hydrothermal processes are at work.

    'hydro' for water, and 'thermal' for heat. There are many processes that can yield the observable result, one of the most far out ones being the assumption that there is an ocean beneath the ice.

    On the sea floor, hot water at a temperature of at least 90 degrees Celsius dissolves minerals from the moon’s rocky interior.

    Again, building on the assumption that an ocean actually exists, and modeling it

    "The origin of this energy is not well understood,"

    especially if one choses to promote the ocean idea that, let's face it, makes for a much catchier headline

    "but likely includes a combination of tidal heating as Enceladus orbits Saturn, radioactive decay in the core and chemical reactions."

    "chemical reactions". You don't say.

    "Coverage by the CBC suggests that the subsurface ocean environment on Enceladus could support microbial life"

    of course it does. That's even more clicks, and even more revenue.

    "as it shares similarities with the hydrothermal vents in Earth's oceans."

    Sure it does. They are both hydrothermal, and did I mention that Enceladus has an ocean?

    "The findings were published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

    And this is the root of all evil: the parasitic middleman known as 'Nature' journal, whos only function is to appeal to scientific vanity, trick scientists into waiving their publication rights and paywall PUBLICLY funded science by offering so-called scientific 'prestige' to career- and tenure track-oriented 'scientists' that would claim that their own mother has underwater geysers spewing silica to outer space, if they could get away with it (and further fund their 'research')

    Honestly, with my hand on my heart, I would take this result much more seriously if 'Nature' was not involved. Now I am probably not even going to read the paper.