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Oxygen Found Around Saturn's Moon Dione

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the don't-plan-vacation-just-yet dept.

Space 58

New submitter S810 writes "According to an article in Discovery News, oxygen was found by the Cassini spacecraft around Dione, one of Saturn's large moons. 'It is thought the oxygen is being produced via interactions between Saturn's powerful radiation belts and Dione's water ice. The radiation breaks the water molecules down, liberating oxygen into the moon's exosphere.' Hopefully this will open the door for more funding of research int the moons of Saturn and Jupiter."

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I'll just leave this here (5, Funny)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39223869)

aliens [photobucket.com]

Re:I'll just leave this here (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39223995)

I'd plus 1 this if I could...

Re:I'll just leave this here (2)

neokushan (932374) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224913)

I'd RT it if I could...

Re:I'll just leave this here (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226295)

Yup, I definitely see a likeness [thewb.com] .

Re:I'll just leave this here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39229879)

Re: your link -- "The WB can only be viewed in the United States."

ok (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39223971)

Cool story, bro.

Why... (1, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#39223987)

Should I care and why would anyone increase funding because of this?
Radiation + Water can often release O^n, this is pretty common knowledge.
And both radiation and water are common.

Re:Why... (5, Insightful)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224123)

Research into the worlds and universe that surrounds us is always a worthy goal, certainly much more so than terrorising middle easterners for their fossil fuels, so stick your jutting lower lip back into your checkbook and contribute something useful.

Re:Why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39224623)

Ah, but without that fossil fuel, how you gonna send (or even build) machines to Saturn? Good intentions? Heartfelt wishes? Yeah, thought so.

Re:Why... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39224763)

We just need a device that converts an unjustified sense of superiority into a mass-equivalent. Then we can hook 1/58th of the Slashdot userbase up to such a device and with proper placement create a "ladder" of low-g into low earth orbit. From there, the energy needs to launch a craft to Saturn are greatly reduced.

A few more Slashdotters, and we can construct a rapid mass-chaining gravitational cannon to reduce the travel time to distant objects.

(I leave the arrogance to mass conversion mechanism as an engineering problem for someone else to solve)

Re:Why... (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225839)

you mean "(I hearby leave..."

Re:Why... (0)

alienzed (732782) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225159)

Couldn't we first ensure that we don't destroy this planet and perhaps feed every one on it first?

Re:Why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226447)

One might argue that those are contrary motives. More people = more planet consumption. So how about working toward getting people easily off the planet? Once we learn to thrive in space, we can step back and appreciate the Earth for the jewel it is, perhaps.
Anyway. As cool as this discovery is, doesn't Saturn's magnetosphere preclude anything but automated exploration of the area, based on our technological limitations ATM?

Re:Why... (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 2 years ago | (#39227265)

We already produce enough food to feed every human on the planet. The reason for starving people is an economic/political problem. E.G. Some areas of Africa got in a few wars and a lot of farmers died. International Aid agencies sent in food aid, for free to the local populace. Some of this was seized by the warlords, the rest drove the price of food low enough that the local farmers had no reason to farm, just take the aid food. A generation later, and all the farms are gone, and people are starving without food aid. That's highly simplified, etc, etc. The inaccuracies of the above don't detract from the point that we can produce the food easily, but getting it distributed would involve socioeconomic change on the countries we want to feed.

Re:Why... (1)

mccrew (62494) | more than 2 years ago | (#39227517)

...or put more simply:

Name the last time a famine occurred in a democracy.

Re:Why... (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#39228285)

Kenya 2011.

Re:Why... (1)

demachina (71715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39227825)

"we can produce the food easily"

That is certainly a gross simplification. For one thing providing sufficient food currently involves something resembling strip mining the oceans and this has severely distressed a number of species. If we manage to crash enough species a significant part of our food supply will be gone.

Producing food on farms is increasingly dependent on industrial farming techniques which, in particular, require high volumes of potassium, phosphorous and nitrogen fertilizer. Without industrial fertilizers the worlds agricultural yeild will drop dramatically.

Nitrogen fertilizers are usually produced from natural gas and coal, which is a finite resource, though they can be made from atmospheric Nitrogen if you figure out an economical way to do fixation. Nitrogen is probably less of a concern that potash and phosphate which usually come from mines and dry lake beds. They are most definitely a finite resource and when they run out things will get interesting. Prices are already steadily rising as places like China increase the demand for this very finite resource.

Lucky for us population growth is starting to level off, if it doesn't we almost certainly will end up with Soylent Green moments in the future unless we are very clever.

Re:Why... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226831)

much more [worthy goal] than terrorising middle easterners for their fossil fuels

OMG! I AM A TERRORIST. I HAD NO IDEA. I HAVE JUST BEEN WALKING AROUND HANDING PEOPLE MONEY FOR GOODS ALL THESE YEARS. The TERROR they must have been in. idiot.

Re:Why... (2)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224169)

The article states that some of the other moons might also have oxygen and maybe thus sports some form of life. I assume that's the point behind the statement in the submission summary. Though it is definitely poorly worded.

Re:Why... (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224417)

Anybody (journalists) who thinks oxygen == life has completely misinterpreted James Lovelock.

Re:Why... (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225285)

They don't think that. You misinterpret what I said.

Re:Why... (1)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | more than 2 years ago | (#39254393)

oxygen is actually harmful, but our body chemistry is fit to exploit small amounts without killing us very quickly. also, the very earliest, most primitive forms of life on this planet found oxygen very poisonous. http://www.allmovie.com/movie/earth-story-oxygen-the-poison-gas-v196928 [allmovie.com]

Re:Why... (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225333)

Oxygen can be a signature of life, because plants produce it. But if they have a more likely source for this oxygen, like water and radiation, then it hardly seems like a good reason to expect life.

Also I don't know the science behind it but just because all animals on earth need it is a bad reason to assume that all animal like life needs it (it is a common resource here so it is not a surprise that we use it).

Re:Why... (2)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225733)

Oxygen can be a signature of life, because plants produce it.

Plants liberate oxygen, not produce it. As far as I know, only nucleosynthesis can actually produce oxygen.

And frankly, a lot of processes can liberate oxygen. As mentioned, water or other oxygen-bearing molecules disrupted by energetic particles or ionizing radiation.

Also I don't know the science behind it but just because all animals on earth need it is a bad reason to assume that all animal like life needs it (it is a common resource here so it is not a surprise that we use it).

Science fiction biochemistry seems to be in love with silicon as the base equivalent of carbon, and chlorine as the oxidizer, for instance But humans tend to look for what they already recognize. "It's life Jim, but not as we know it" is something between an epiphany and a punchline.

Re:Why... (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39227489)

As far as I know, only nucleosynthesis can actually produce oxygen.

I'm afraid you're mistaken. Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach are all on record as having produced Oxygen. I heard Oprah was also heavily involved.

Re:Why... (1)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225933)

I don't disagree with you. I'm just saying that is what the article states for the reason why it would lead to more research.

Re:Why... (1)

nusuth (520833) | more than 2 years ago | (#39230021)

Actually free oxygen is a signiture of life because it readily combines with something else in almost all imaginable planetary conditions. That means, if any oxygen is detected, it must be continiously produced. It is impossible that some oxygen stayed there for millions of years. Of course when you have an more likely explanation for oxygen production, such as this case, life need not be the reason for it.

Re:Why... (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224269)

You mean O_n, not O^n

Re:Why... (1)

S810 (168676) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224471)

According to the article: "This most recent discovery will no doubt give a boost to scientists lobbying for sending missions to the gas giant's satellites to search for alien life as, like the presence of liquid water, the presence oxygen could support microscopic lifeforms on other, more habitable moons."

Science is alway looking for way to expand our knowledge...

Re:Why... (3, Insightful)

demachina (71715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224903)

The obsession with "finding life" is a case of extremely misplaced priorities. It is a worthwhile pursuit, and I'm not saying it shouldn't be pursued but it should NOT be the primary focus of space exploration. Finding life in our solar system is not a particularly high probability and if you do manage it there is a fair chance its going to be microscopic, so making it a primary focus of your research effort is setting yourself up to fail. The longer you keep doing it, the more money you spend, and the longer you go finding nothing, the higher the probababilty the people who fund you, and the public in general, will lose interest in funding you.

Things like asteroid resource exploration or Mars colonization would be goals that would have tangible benefits in the long term, and would actually justify substantial R&D funding, especially as Earth becomes more and more resource challenged.

A pitch based on their being Oxygen around Saturn so its extremely urgent we go looking for life there rings like a desperate act of researchers wanting to get new funding. Its not a visionary pitch.

Re:Why... (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225405)

I agree completely. Any life we find close to Earth, while very interesting and a huge help in understanding exactly what life is, will not produce any tangible benefits while finding a planet full of useful resources very much could.

Re:Why... (1)

Jessified (1150003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226419)

If there is oxygen there, then it's worth seeing if it can support human life, which would make it immensely more cost-effective to mine or colonize there? Even if it's too cold, if the atmosphere could support life then the main problem would be heating and possibly radiation shielding.

A Wikipedia search suggests it can't, but if other moons could the point stands.

Re:Why... (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 2 years ago | (#39227305)

"possibly radiation shielding"

The radiation there is strong enough to break up water into hydrogen and oxygen. You'll need quite a bit of it to survive, being a bag of mostly water.

Re:Why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226531)

Why? Because there are oceans in the outer solar system (not that this article has anything to do with that). I'm more interested in exploring these oceans than spending money on some half-assed star trek fantasy in the inner solar system. This obsession with human spaceflight is childish. It must come from watching too much science fiction, it gives you unrealistic expectations and unhealthy attitudes towards space exploration. Sort of like porn and your sex lives.

Re:Why... (1)

demachina (71715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39227567)

"half-assed star trek fantasy"

Nice troll, anonymous coward dude.

Why exactly is exploring the oceans on Europa, Titan or Enceladus any more or less "half-assed" than either of the things I proposed? I'm assuming you must have a vested career interest in JPL or ESA missions to one of those places to be so strident on something so specific? Oceans are interesting if you are planning to send people there but you seem to have no interest in that, so what is the point other than pure science like searching for "life".

SpaceX is almost certainly already working towards the goal of colonizing Mars, so its not that far out there to be worth the epithet "fantasy". A better source than "Star Trek" is Kim Stanley Robinsons's excellent Mars trilogy [wikipedia.org] . Some of its a bit fanciful but it is an interesting and detailed case for why a new human biosphere is interesting on a number of levels.

Asteroid resource extraction isn't necessarily human spaceflight centric. You can use robotic explorers to find near earth asteroids which are rich in minerals scarce on Earth, like gold. You then use a robotic pusher to move it in to Earth orbit where either machines or people mine it. It would be a way to create wealth and abundance from space exploration, which, like it or not is, a way to pay the bills for space exploration instead of milking tax payers which is the current dominant model and I'm guessing is the model you like.

Re:Why... (1)

T.E.D. (34228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224999)

It is debatable how common water is outside Earth, and everywhere on Earth water is found, life is found, no matter how harsh the conditions. So it is generally a huge deal when the possibility of water is discovered on another planet.

I think you just inadvertantly explained to everyone why this is in fact a big deal.

Re:Why... (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225661)

Water is only slightly less common then rock and vacume in outer-space (or at least in our section of it).

Entire planets are made mostly of ice, as well as many meteors being full of the stuff.
Liquid water is rather rare, but then we know where liquid water exists by how far away the closest star is.
Unless you are talking about under the surface water.

And where does this "everywhere on Earth water is found, life is found" come from? Life is found everywhere on earth except in magma perhaps. Water is also found in varying amounts everywhere as well, so it is not that I find that statement false but rather uninteresting and inconclusive. You could say that all life on earth needs water, which I think is true, but the original article is not even talking about finding liquid water.

The article is talking about finding oxygen, which is not a reason to expect life as any life they are going to find will be bacteria in the ice and that will likely not even need oxygen.

Hydrogen? (1)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224037)

The radiation breaks the water molecules down, liberating oxygen into the moon's exosphere.

So what happens to the Hydrogen? (No of course I didn't RTFA! This is /.)

Re:Hydrogen? (2)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224207)

Hydrogen is much lighter so it either gets stripped away by solar wind or achieves escape velocity.

Re:Hydrogen? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224895)

Some of it recombines with the oxygen and becomes water again, but almost all of it, being lighter than the rest of the atmosphere, just floats off into space.

My bad.. (4, Funny)

newsman220 (1928648) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224129)

Sorry, I left the valve open. I'll go back and get it.

Grab the remote... (1)

rullywowr (1831632) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224147)

If you weren't too thrilled about Oxygen, then I suppose you could grab the remote and change it to the History Channel or something more stimulating.

Re:Grab the remote... (3, Informative)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224287)

I'm not thrilled because it's old news. Europa was found to have a mostly oxygen atmosphere back in 1995. Just like Dione, that "atmosphere" is too thin to be useful at only 0.1 uPa.

Re:Grab the remote... (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39228731)

I'm not thrilled because it's old news. Europa was found to have a mostly oxygen atmosphere back in 1995.

Yeah, well, but we can't fucking go to Europa, now can we?

More chance of successful funding (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39224159)

if the moon created beer.

int = ? (1)

Flipstylee (1932884) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224301)

oh, haha, int + o.

I for one welcome (0)

future assassin (639396) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224453)

our oxygen creating Dione Warwick overlords

Way Station (2)

eternaldoctorwho (2563923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224633)

Between Europa at Jupiter (water and therefore oxygen) and this, it looks like we have some great candidates for spacecraft way stations on the way through the solar system, ala Discovery One [wikipedia.org] .

Big Deal! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39224727)

Methane was found around Uranus

Gaseous Rings (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39224729)

If only there were an appropriate joke about Gaseous Rings in space.

Re:Gaseous Rings (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225741)

if it were a moon of uranus...

Stopping point in the future (1)

BetaDays (2355424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225409)

Stopping point in the future to pick up oxygen as we move across the universe?

Re:Stopping point in the future (2)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226731)

Stopping point in the future to pick up oxygen as we move across the universe?

Interesting idea, but not really a "stopping off point". If we visualise the journey to even the nearest star (aside from the sun) as a journey from Los Angeles to New York (2790 miles), then in terms of relative distance Dione is equivalent to an, er... "gas" station just over 100 metres from your starting point.

the logic of life (1)

kwoff (516741) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226587)

From the article, "liquid water is key to the evolution of life" and "the radiation breaks the water molecules down". That means it's...less likely to contain life, right? Therefore it should...get more funding?

The sun's mass is about 0.9% oxygen [wikipedia.org] . Therefore there should be more funding of research into the sun, because it might (not?) contain life?

Celine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226953)

Is that you?

Remember... (0)

docwatson223 (986360) | more than 2 years ago | (#39227263)

We're not allowed to land! ;)

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39229927)

I don't get how this increases chances of finding life on that moon. Oxygen on earth is mostly due to plants, that is life already existing. If it is the result of radiation I don't get how that increases the chances. Furthermore I think it actually decreases the chances. If I remember correctly, high levels of oxygen would make starting life harder if not impossible.

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