Enceladus

Enceladus: Be careful when walking on ice Enceladus

Enceladus: Be careful when walking on ice

Anyone landing on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, for example to explore the ocean at its depth, had better be careful: Ice quakes could be part of everyday life on the surface of the 500-kilometer-diameter moon. Researchers are drawing attention to this in a new study. The culprit is the massive tidal forces caused by Saturn and the planet's other, larger moons - much like the moon on Earth. These tidal movements, on the plus side, warm its interior so that life could possibly arise there. But they also cause the surface to crack, sometimes pushing large geysers of water…
New signs of life from Enceladus Enceladus

New signs of life from Enceladus

In the geysers at Enceladus' south pole, the hypothetical probe "Enceladus Life Finder" detects clear signs of life in my book "The Enceladus Mission" - whereupon a crewed spacecraft, the ILSE, is sent to Saturn's moon. But it all really starts with Cassini, the NASA-ESA mission that found a relatively high concentration of certain molecules associated with hydrothermal vents at the bottom of Earth's oceans, specifically hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide, just there. The amount of methane found in the vapor plumes was particularly unexpected. "We wanted to know: Could Earth-like microbes that 'eat' the hydrogen and produce methane…
Richly covered menu in the Enceladus ocean Enceladus

Richly covered menu in the Enceladus ocean

Life needs energy for its existence. The more extensive and diverse the supplies of a potential ecosystem are, the more stable the communities that develop there can be. For Saturn's moon Enceladus, a new study now indicates that a diverse metabolic menu could support a potentially diverse microbial community in the liquid-water ocean beneath the moon's icy skin. Using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, scientists at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) have modeled the chemical processes in the subsurface ocean of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Before its deorbit in September 2017, Cassini studied the cloud of ice grains and water…
Where the geysers on Europa could come from Enceladus

Where the geysers on Europa could come from

There are several worlds - usually moons - in the solar system, where it appears that life-friendly conditions could exist in the oceans below their crust. Whether this is really the case, we will only know after we have drilled through the ice and checked (as is done in The Enceladus Mission). A new paper by researchers from Stanford University, the University of Arizona, the University of Texas and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is now lowering hopes somewhat. As the researchers show, some eruptions may not come from the depths of the oceans, but from water pockets embedded in…
Fresh frozen items delivered to Enceladus’s north pole too Enceladus

Fresh frozen items delivered to Enceladus’s north pole too

No, unfortunately nobody’s opened a new Ben and Jerry’s on Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. Not yet, at least. But a new paper just published in the magazine, Icarus, shows again just how valuable the images are from the joint NASA-ESA mission Cassini, even years after the probe was intentionally crashed into Saturn. Specifically, Cassini also delivered the most detailed global infrared images ever taken of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Combined with photos of Cassini’s other cameras, they provide convincing evidence that the northern hemisphere of the moon is covered with relatively fresh ice from its interior. The scientists that were part of…
How a steam-powered robot could explore Enceladus Enceladus

How a steam-powered robot could explore Enceladus

The thing designated SPARROW that engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory want to send to the icy moons of Enceladus and Europa has nothing at all in common with its namesake bird. Americans and scientists love acronyms, and the designation SPARROW came from the name “Steam Propelled Autonomous Retrieval Robot for Ocean Worlds.” The project is part of the “NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts” program (NIAC), whose current candidates were announced by NASA earlier in Spring 2020. SPARROW stands out because it uses a very old propulsion solution from the start of the Industrial Age. But instead of coal for…
What’s going on at the bottom of Enceladus’s oceans? Enceladus

What’s going on at the bottom of Enceladus’s oceans?

Along with Mars, Saturn’s moon, Titan, and Jupiter’s moon, Europa, another of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus, has long topped the list of locations to search for possible extraterrestrial life. The last probe to study it, Cassini, gave up the ghost in a fiery descent through Saturn’s atmosphere, but new discoveries are still being made in the data it transmitted back to Earth, as an article in Geophysical Research Letters shows. Dr. Christopher Glein, the main author of the study, explained: “We came up with a new technique for analyzing the plume composition to estimate the concentration of dissolved CO2 in the…
How the ice moon Enceladus got its tiger stripes Enceladus

How the ice moon Enceladus got its tiger stripes

Saturn’s ice moon, Enceladus, is one of the most promising worlds in terms of the search for places where extraterrestrial life might exist. Of course, as a reader of the Ice Moon series, you’ve already known that for a long time. Near its south pole there are deep fissures in its crust, through which water is constantly being forced outward. This allows researchers to look under the ice, which is up to 100 kilometers thick, without having to drill through it. A new study tries to explain the unusual appearance of these sulci, which are also called “tiger stripes.”…