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Enceladus's 101 Geysers Blast From Hidden Ocean

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the say-it-don't-spray-it dept.

Space 39

astroengine writes: New observations from NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft have revealed at least 101 individual geysers erupting from Enceladus' crust and, through careful analysis, planetary scientists have uncovered their origin. From the cracked ice in this region, fissures blast out water vapor mixed with organic compounds as huge geysers. Associated with these geysers are surface "hotspots" but until now there has been some ambiguity as to whether the hotspots are creating the geysers or whether the geysers are creating the hotspots. "Once we had these results in hand, we knew right away heat was not causing the geysers, but vice versa," said Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of one of the research papers. "It also told us the geysers are not a near-surface phenomenon, but have much deeper roots." And those roots point to a large subsurface source of liquid water — adding Enceladus as one of the few tantalizing destinations for future astrobiology missions.

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Astrobiology (1)

Maxus Atom (2423738) | about 3 months ago | (#47560507)

ALIEN... bacteria!

Re:Astrobiology (5, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47560589)

Alien bacteria would be an amazing reinforcement of cell theory. All life on earth is made of cells, but it's easy to dismiss that as saying that any other suddenly emergent kinds of life couldn't compete against the already evolving cells that happened to come first.

Finding truly alien bacteria would basically cement the idea that cells and life are synonymous.

What I'm trying to say, haphazardly, is that any kind of alien life would have tremendously informative side effects for biology in general.

Re:Astrobiology (5, Insightful)

mythosaz (572040) | about 3 months ago | (#47561431)

Or, it would reinforce the idea that life spread uniformly through our solar system from some shared visitor in a wonderful accident of cosmic cross-contamination.

Re:Astrobiology (1)

Rick in China (2934527) | about 3 months ago | (#47562871)

*Exactly*. I'd up-vote if I had mod to give :D

Re:Astrobiology (1)

Jason Goatcher (3498937) | about 3 months ago | (#47561805)

I predict it will be DNA and/or RNA similar to that on Earth. And I'm a Jesus freaky Christian, so I'm asserting God put it there and Jesus is Lord.

Of course, if nothing's found there, ignore me. Otherwise, if it's truly alien DNA, I will be very shocked. Alien DNA would definitely screw with my Christian belief system. Especially if we didn't even have the same nutrients in common.

Re:Astrobiology (2)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 3 months ago | (#47563401)

Alien DNA would definitely screw with my Christian belief system.

Why?

You guys survived Earth being round, the heavens not including Heaven, Earth not being the centre of the solar system, then not being the centre of the universe, humans not being the majority of Earth's history and the bible not covering most of human history, and of course not having a single major biblical event (pre-7th century BC) appear in the fossil or archaeological record.

Why would two separate creations of life suddenly throw you?

Re:Astrobiology (2)

hawkfish (8978) | about 3 months ago | (#47567305)

I predict it will be DNA and/or RNA similar to that on Earth. And I'm a Jesus freaky Christian, so I'm asserting God put it there and Jesus is Lord.

Of course, if nothing's found there, ignore me. Otherwise, if it's truly alien DNA, I will be very shocked. Alien DNA would definitely screw with my Christian belief system. Especially if we didn't even have the same nutrients in common.

Why? It didn't bother [blogspot.com] C. S. Lewis.

Re:Astrobiology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47561971)

Are you sure you have something to say? If you define a cell to be a basic unit of life, then by definition alien life will either be cells or composed of cells. There's no "reinforcement of cell theory". Cells and life are synonymous because we defined it that way.

Re:Astrobiology (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47562001)

Allowing for other self-replicating, for lack of a better word, constructs as life is being open minded.

Cell theory is dominant in science because nothing else that has been seen really meets that rather basic criteria.

Re:Astrobiology (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47560631)

And what if it was virus?
Viruses are considered by some to be a life form, because they carry genetic material, reproduce, and evolve through natural selection. However they lack key characteristics (such as cell structure) that are generally considered necessary to count as life. Because they possess some but not all such qualities, viruses have been described as "organisms at the edge of life" wikipedia

Re:Astrobiology (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47560657)

The thing about viruses is that they depend on cells to reproduce. They're life that's outsourced all the hard work of living: gathering energy, producing proteins, duplicating DNA.

Discovering viruses is functionally equivalent to discovering bacteria, since they need the bacteria to exist.

Re:Astrobiology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47560749)

What about Prions?

Re:Astrobiology (1)

stoploss (2842505) | about 3 months ago | (#47561325)

Prions are "alive" the way that an earworm [wikipedia.org] is "alive". Contact with others will cause them to have the earworm as well, but it's not like the earworm replicates itself.

Re:Astrobiology (1)

gargleblast (683147) | about 3 months ago | (#47561529)

That would be like discovering mad cows.

Re:Astrobiology (1)

NIK282000 (737852) | about 3 months ago | (#47560875)

It would be interesting to find earth life on one of the solar system's icy moons. We have moon and Mars meteors falling to earth, what are the odds that a rock carrying hearty earth life made it out there?

Re:Astrobiology (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 3 months ago | (#47563435)

what are the odds that a rock carrying hearty earth life made it out there?

More interesting is whether a rock carrying hearty Enceladean life ever made it here.

Re:Astrobiology (1)

LduN (3754243) | about 3 months ago | (#47560739)

such as the descolada?

Re:Astrobiology (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47561115)

The thing about alien life is that it is ALIEN. It may not conform to someone's narrow view of what life is. You could be looking right at it and not recognize it. Understandably we look for what we consider life because we know no other. I have to laugh at all the vegetarians because they are killing living things and eating them, but think meat eaters are the bad guys. Just because it doesn't have a face doesn't mean it is not alive.

Re:Astrobiology (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 3 months ago | (#47561151)

If it's life, it's going to have a metabolism, it's going to reproduce and it's going to excrete. It may not, at first blush, look like life, but there will be chemical processes that in some way replicate processes found in terrestrial life.

Re:Astrobiology (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 3 months ago | (#47561443)

As long as we define "life" as "life as we know it," sure.

Re:Astrobiology (3, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 3 months ago | (#47561641)

And what would you define something that didn't ingest, metabolize, excrete, reproduce and have some sort of system of heredity? Other chemical processes; like fire and crystallization, might hit some of these marks, but we don't call them living systems. So while the precise chemical processes, heck maybe even many of the chemical elements involved may be different (silicon-based life on Titan or something like that), I think at the end of the day if it going to be called life, it has to have the same basic features as terrestrial life.

Re:Astrobiology (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about 3 months ago | (#47561673)

What I'm saying is that "we don't know what we don't know." Nothing more. Nothing less.

Re:Astrobiology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47563443)

What I'm saying is that "we don't know what we don't know."

And when it comes to not knowing, you are clearly an expert.

Re:Astrobiology (1)

Wycliffe (116160) | about 3 months ago | (#47563437)

And what would you define something that didn't ingest, metabolize, excrete, reproduce and have some sort of system of heredity? Other chemical processes; like fire and crystallization, might hit some of these marks, but we don't call them living systems. So while the precise chemical processes, heck maybe even many of the chemical elements involved may be different (silicon-based life on Titan or something like that), I think at the end of the day if it going to be called life, it has to have the same basic features as terrestrial life.

Why does life have to ingest, excrete, etc?? That's a way too narrow of definition. Heck, you've almost managed to exclude
plants. I'm not even sure something needs to reproduce to be considered life. If we found something moving and/or growing
on the moon and that can respond to it's environment in a semintelligent way like bacteria then it would be hard to argue that
it's not some form of life. We don't consider robots alive but finding the equivalent of a robot on mars would mean that it's
either life or was produced by something that was intelligent even if we don't yet know how.

Re:Astrobiology (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 3 months ago | (#47563837)

To be fair, this is a relatively broad description. Most descriptions require H2O.

2010: Odyssey Two (4th Edition) (4, Funny)

CanEHdian (1098955) | about 3 months ago | (#47560753)

ALL THESE WORLDS
ARE YOURS EXCEPT
ENCELADUS
ATTEMPT NO
LANDING THERE

Well, let's hope if I add some lowercase that the filter will allow me to post. HAL 9000 communicated in capitals."

Re:2010: Odyssey Two (4th Edition) (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 3 months ago | (#47561403)

Mmm...tantalizing enchiladas...

Re:2010: Odyssey Two (4th Edition) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47562085)

Repeat after me: "en-SELL-uh-dus"

Re:2010: Odyssey Two (4th Edition) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47563475)

I bet you say "YOO-rin-us" too.

Re:2010: Odyssey Two (4th Edition) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47563563)

_Nobody_ says "en-CHILL-ah-das" except uneducated morons. Go ask ANY astronomer or ANY historian. It's just plain incorrect. In fact, I had never even heard or seen anyone mangle the pronunciation until some idiots on Slashdot started doing it.

On the other hand, Uranus is properly pronounced both "yur-uh-nus" and "yur-a-nus", so yeah, you're wrong there too.

Re:2010: Odyssey Two (4th Edition) (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 3 months ago | (#47564371)

Actually, it should be en-ke-la-dos. Slashdot won't let me post Unicode, so here's the link to the guy who's name is used for the moon:
https://el.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Re:2010: Odyssey Two (4th Edition) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47570469)

You've linked to a non-English page, which is irrelevant to the English language.

Re:2010: Odyssey Two (4th Edition) (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 3 months ago | (#47572265)

You've linked to a non-English page, which is irrelevant to the English language.

Enceladus is not an English word. It is a Greek word, therefore I've linked to the Greek page. Though who know the Greek alphabet (physicists, mathematicians, engineers, i.e. a considerable portion of /. readership) will be able to read the word and understand how it is to be pronounced. Greek, unlike English, is pronounced how it is spelled.

Re:2010: Odyssey Two (4th Edition) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47579301)

No shit, that doesn't mean the correct ENGLISH pronunciation is the same as the Greek one. In English we say "bee-tuh" or "bay-tuh", not "vee-tuh". The Greek pronunciation is completely and utterly irrelevant, hence your posts are too.

Re:2010: Odyssey Two (4th Edition) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47561969)

You could have added "I wonder if anybody else has seen that movie," and covered all options.

Needs a theme song (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47560757)

Some que "2001" theme song! :-)

Is ice escaping? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47566311)

Is heat and/or material escaping via these Geysers? If so, how long have they been active? Then, how old is Enceladus? With Enceladus having a diameter of only 500 km, could these Geysers exert enough force to alter Enceladus's orbit? Considering age of Geysers and size of Enceladus, could Enceladus be disappearing? If so, how has it lasted this long?

no drill required (1)

jcgam69 (994690) | about 3 months ago | (#47566603)

They also found that narrow pathways through the ice shell can remain open from the sea all the way to the surface, if filled with liquid water.

These open pathways are perfect channels to explore the hidden ocean below.

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