Wed 26 Nov, 2008 10:41 pm
WASHINGTON - Astronomers looking at the spectacular supersonic plumes of gas and dust shooting off one of Saturn's moons say there are strong hints of liquid water, a key building block of life.
Their research, appearing in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, adds to the growing push to explore further the moon Enceladus as one of the solar system's most compelling places for potential life.
Using images from NASA's Cassini probe, astronomers had already figured that the mysterious plumes shooting from Enceladus' icy terrain contain water vapor. New calculations suggesting the gas and dust spew at speeds faster-than-sound make the case for liquid, said study lead author Candice Hansen of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in California. Her team calculated the plumes travel more than 1,360 mph.
Reaching that speed "is hard to do without liquids," Hansen said. While her paper offers more evidence building on what others have found, she added that her research is not the final proof of liquid water on Enceladus.
Other planetary scientists, such as Andrew Ingersoll at the California Institute of Technology, said the research is good, but that it is possible to achieve such speeds with ice particles and at cooler temperatures. So Hansen hasn't proven her case yet, he and other scientists said.
Carolyn Porco, the head of the Cassini camera team and an astronomer who didn't take part in Hansen's research, said "the evidence in my mind is building on liquid water." That moon, one of 60 circling Saturn, "has become the go-to place" for exploration in the outer planets, she said.
Europa, a moon of Jupiter, may have a liquid ocean beneath its frozen surface. But Enceladus, thought responsible for producing one of Saturn's rings, is more accessible, Hansen said. "Enceladus is sort of helpfully spewing out its innards," she said.
Saturn and its moons hold many mysteries. I wouldn't be surprised to find the place teaming with life.
Ethyl alcohol was first detected in the interstellar medium in 1975 by a team led by Ben Zuckerman, but proved elusive in subsequent searches. Before this detection, only Sgr B2 and W51M showed conclusive proof (!) of the presence of ethyl alcohol...
The detection of such large amounts of ethyl alcohol, and previous detections of even larger amounts of methanol, in hot cores suggests that grain surface chemistry may be very efficient in producing alcohols. ...
Finally, it is worth pointing out how much ethyl alcohol is present in G34.3. Geoff Macdonald, who has a keen interest in such matters, calculated that there is enough for 300,000 pints of beer for every person on Earth every day for the next billion years
It is highly amusing that 'grains' are involved in producing booze in deepest space. This may also be the reason that we've yet to make contact with intelligent life.... still down the pub.
I always knew the universe was a big party place where humans were not invited!
There is a school of thought which holds that our own solar system is a composite system of sorts, and that our own planet was formerly a 'moon' of Saturn's, e.g.
IF that should turn out to be the case, then finding Earth-like conditions on other Saturnian moons should not come as any sort of a gigantic surprise.
If that's the case the that means that the Saturnians have had millions of years of advancement beyond us! They may be light years ahead of us in technology!
Not to mention religion and snack foods . . .
I'm imagining life to much like this on that moon:
Ever wonder about why half the names you read in the Bible end in "el" (Micha-el, Isra-el, Gabri-el, Mehujal-el, Dani-el etc. etc.)?
You can convince yourself that "El" originally meant Saturn by doing google searches on the three terms 'el', 'saturn', and 'babylon'; including the term 'babylon' keeps you from seeing every sort of GM website for Saturn cars.
Every one of those names originally meant something or other -- Saturn.