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Enceladus "Sea" Mystery Deepens

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the who-moved-my-sodium dept.

Space 166

Smivs writes "The BBC reports that an ocean may not be the source of the jets emanating from Saturn's moon Enceladus. Controversial research questions the moon's promise as a target in the search for life beyond Earth. A chemical analysis of Enceladus, led by University of Colorado planetary scientist Nick Schneider, failed to detect sodium, an element scientists say should be present in any body of water that has been in contact with rock for billions of years. Spectral analysis with the Keck Telescope found no sodium in the plumes or in the vapor in orbit around the moon. At stake is whether Saturn's moon could support alien life and is thus a worthy target for a NASA exploratory mission to detect it. Such a mission to Enceladus is one of four currently under review for further development."

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The Tiger Stripes are not Cracks (3, Interesting)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747696)

Re:The Tiger Stripes are not Cracks (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21747710)

thunderbolts.com is being replaced with a better version [myminicity.com]

Homosexual black male looking for support group (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21747828)

I found slashdot when searching for LUGs in my area. Can someone help me?

Moderator on Crack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748298)

Offtopic?!

Re:Moderator on Crack (1, Insightful)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748454)

Offtopic?!

By "Offtopic", I think they mean it's not their preferred cosmology.

There is a subtle guerrilla war going on within the discipline of astrophysics right now. Many of the conventional astrophysicists are refusing to consider the *possibility* that electricity in space does things of importance. Even when the evidence is compelling, they refuse to take part in any serious investigation that the conventional theories may be seriously wrong. The thing is, in the past, we used to evaluate ideas within the conclusions of studies. They're ruling the idea out within their assumptions. Even though reasonable arguments exist that space plasmas can become highly electrical, and even on huge scales at that, they stick to their guns that electricity in space cannot do anything of any importance -- and they consistently declare that the idea is so absurd that it does not even deserve consideration within the disciplines of astrophysics, the weather sciences, climatology or geology, among others. At the current rate, we're perhaps going to spin our wheels here for a couple of decades until public awareness of the role of electricity in space increases. Currently, the level of awareness of what's happening is quite low due to the complexity of the subject. But, over time, people will get better at explaining the situation, and more people will begin to wonder why we do not consider the *possibility* that electricity actually does things in space (other than just creating magnetic fields).

The truly sad thing is that, if the public actually knew about the evidence, they would certainly not agree that the idea does not deserve consideration. There is a huge disconnect right now between the more over-zealous astrophysicists and reasonable, objective people.

There's in fact a pretty good chance that somebody will actually chime in on this thread actually. They consider people like myself as spreading "misinformation".

Re:Moderator on Crack (1)

dnwq (910646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748666)

Parent is talking about plasma cosmology [wikipedia.org] . Duly note that the Wiki article is a battleground for supporters, so read it with a heap of salt. What the parent has politely omitted is that his preferred cosmology relies on an elaborate denial of big-bang theory.

Re:Moderator on Crack (3, Funny)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#21749270)

Oh thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm soooo glad to have someone reliable and unbiased like Wikipedia to do my thinking for me.

The sad fact of science is that scientific knowledge comes in waves and only advances past a certain point when the main proponent of a previous world model is dead.

Shame on you, the electric universe guys who flame (and mod down here) everyone who does not agree with you. Shame on you wikipedians for being unable to keep your own bias out of wikipedia.

I was inclined to be sympathetic to the electric universe guys just on general principles (magnetism is a huge effect), but no more, thank you. Anyone who has to make an argument by silencing opposition (or apparent opposition) just does not have a leg to stand on, in my opinion.

Oh my god. I've offended both sides. Better moderate me into oblivion so no one else can hear since you can't delete this post.

Re:Moderator on Crack (4, Insightful)

GTMoogle (968547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21750468)

There's also the sad fact that there are a number of scientists who have a stroke of what they assume is brilliance and ignore the inadequacies of their theory and any contradictory evidence. The momentum of scientific thought, as much as it hurts revolution, also protects science from a lot of inane BS.

That's not to say I think either side is right or wrong. But we shouldn't assume that the underdog is right *just because* he's fighting the establishment.

"To be a persecuted genius, you not only have to be persecuted; you also have to be right." (Asimov)

Re:Moderator on Crack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21749082)

The things you are describing have existed for a rather long time, its just the way science, and academics work. The 'conventional' professors rebuke and neglect to show interest in promising new theories, because it attacks ideas that they have helped build. Then the reasonable, objective people, the students, look at this new information with a more accepting attitude, since they are looking for ideas that they can support, and work on, to build their reputation within the academic world. But then, they continue on in academics, and research, and end up neglecting ideas that challenge their own.

This isn't a flaw in science, its part of the process of working through theories and ideas, and improving on them, in the search for the most accurate view of the cosmos, from the grand scale, to the miniature.

Informative to whom? (4, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748490)

A link to the electric universe nonesense posted by slashdot's #1 EU fanboy is about as informative as "The DaVinci Code", "State of Fear" or "The Panda's thumb".

Re:Informative to whom? (1, Interesting)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748622)

A link to the electric universe nonesense posted by slashdot's #1 EU fanboy is about as informative as "The DaVinci Code", "State of Fear" or "The Panda's thumb".

That's a pretty strong statement considering that the American public is being asked to pay for a mission to the planet to study these supposed cracks, and presumably to eventually study the supposed ocean beneath the ice. I think that most Americans would appreciate hearing more than just one viewpoint on how their money is being spent. One can be forgiven for getting the impression that most conventional astrophysicists would prefer to die trying to prove the Big Bang than have to take part in studying an alternative cosmology.

Re:Informative to whom? (2, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748788)

Yeah! And while we're on the subject, I think it's pretty crazy that the American public is being asked to pay for MRI machines in hospitals to study people's brains, and presumably to eventually study the effect of brain structure on thought, yet they so readily discout phrenology. I think that most Americans would appreciate hearing more than just one viewpoint on how their money is being spent. One can be forgiven for getting the impression that most conventional psychiatrists would prefer to die trying to prove that skull bumps are irrelevant to personality and intelligence than have to take part in studying an alternative psychiatry.

Remember, everyone: a handful of crackpots and a million I-Want-To-Believe-But-Have-No-Background-To-Understand-The-Topic followers must be treated as equals as the entire remainder of the scientific community.

Re:Informative to whom? (3, Insightful)

Iron Condor (964856) | more than 6 years ago | (#21749036)

The earth is NOT flat because one can fly around it.

Now this is not an easy undertaking -- quite a bit of time, money and effort has to be expended to fly around the earth.

But after you've done it, after you've flown around the earth yourself, you do not have to give "equal time" to the notion of a flat earth anymore.

Re:Informative to whom? (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 6 years ago | (#21749414)

WTF? Are you talking about some sort of democratic science where the public at large is "shown the evidence" so they then can "decide for themselves"? Classic pseudo-science behaviour. If you want plasma socmology to be taken seriously, then supporters would do well to cut the crap and bring the substance, because though it's an intriguing theory, I see a lot of kooky stuff going on.


You also say:

Many of the conventional astrophysicists are refusing to consider the *possibility* that electricity in space does things of importance.
Extraordinary claims, and all that. If you're the expert, shouldn't you do the science then?

Re:Informative to whom? (1)

antonyb (913324) | more than 6 years ago | (#21749446)

I think that most Americans would appreciate hearing more than just one viewpoint on how their money is being spent
Isn't that basically how you ended up with intelligent design on the syllabus?

Re:Informative to whom? (1)

APODNereid (1203758) | more than 6 years ago | (#21750788)

So tell us, if you'd be so kind pln2bz, how do you suggest anyone - scientist, non-scientist; member of the American public, citizen of Germany; and so on - should judge, evaluate, test, assess and otherwise check up on the dozens, hundreds, thousands, ... of other 'viewpoints'?

It's a serious question; I hope you'll give it some thought, and give us the benefit of your serious consideration on it.

Re:Informative to whom? (1)

TempeTerra (83076) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748706)

It's a while since I read it but I remember "The Panda's Thumb" being enjoyable if fairly lightweight natural history. It seems like the odd one out. Honest question, is there some controversy I missed?

Re:Informative to whom? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#21750082)

Hmmm, yes I seem to have screwed the name up.

The Panda's thumb is by Stephen J Gould who IMHO is an excellent authour, it is not what I was thinking off. Not sure now of the title but it had something to do with Panda's and was basically the same old creationist nonesense.

Re:Informative to whom? (2, Informative)

dylan_- (1661) | more than 6 years ago | (#21750206)

The Panda's thumb is by Stephen J Gould who IMHO is an excellent authour, it is not what I was thinking off. Not sure now of the title but it had something to do with Panda's and was basically the same old creationist nonesense.
You're thinking of "Of Pandas and People" [wikipedia.org] .

SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21747730)

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Re:SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21747780)

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Re:SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21747882)

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--Sgt S.B.

Re:SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748106)

Trolls are like the opposite of sodium; their presence indicates that there is no life here.

Yeah gads! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21747736)

It's the jis of the gods!! mmmmmm....gobble gobble.....

the environment (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21747738)

when you consider nothing is real [myminicity.com]

Re:the environment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748156)

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#!/bin/sh
killall -HUP tor
export http_proxy="http://192.168.1.5:8118"
#wget --referer="http://ougadouga.myminicity.com/env" -O /dev/null -q http://ougadouga.myminicity.com/env [myminicity.com] 1>&2 >/dev/null &
wget --referer="http://ougadouga.myminicity.com/" -O /dev/null -q http://ougadouga.myminicity.com/ [myminicity.com] 1>&2 >/dev/null &
wget --referer="http://ougadouga.myminicity.com/sec" -O /dev/null -q http://ougadouga.myminicity.com/sec [myminicity.com] 1>&2 > /dev/null &


Then whenever the criminality gets out of hand, I just do this:

#!/usr/bin/php
<?
$url = "http://samair.ru/proxy/";
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$buf = '';
while (!feof($fd)) $buf .= fgets($fd, 4096);
fclose($fd);
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$asdf = array();
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foreach($asdf[0] as $key => $value) {
        $address = $asdf[1][$key] . "." . $asdf[2][$key] . $asdf[3][$key] . ":" . $asdf[4][$key];
        putenv("http_proxy=" . $address);
        $command = sprintf('wget --referer="%s" -O /dev/null -q %s 1>&2 > /dev/null &', "http://ougadouga.myminicity.com/sec", "http://ougadouga.myminicity.com/sec");
        system($command);
}
?>
You should give it a try.

Looking at the script, I could probably simplify it a bit with libcurl and add a few options, if you're interested.

How do you know? (2, Insightful)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747746)

failed to detect sodium, an element scientists say should be present in any body of water that has been in contact with rock for billions of years.

I know people spend their entire lives studying these things, but how do you really know that ALL rock has sulfur in it? Isn't it possible that for whatever reason this rock doesn't?

Solubility at low temps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21747794)

Maybe sodium it isnt so very soluable at such cold temps.

Re:Solubility at low temps (3, Insightful)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747826)

Maybe sodium it isnt so very soluable at such cold temps.
 
Maybe, but thats something you could test here on Earth.

Re:Solubility at low temps (2, Interesting)

raving griff (1157645) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747890)

Perhaps it is something that we have not tested and only assumed for a fact?

Re:Solubility at low temps (2, Informative)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747920)

solubilities are well know and tested for all common elements.

Re:Solubility at low temps (5, Informative)

Ruie (30480) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748916)

solubilities are well know and tested for all common elements

Indeed ! Some tests are done more often then others.

Solubility of sodium chloride (or calcium chloride) in water is commonly used to prevent it from freezing (application - cleaning sidewalks).

The mixture of salt and water freezes at -21 Celsius = 272K or sooner, depending on purity. When salt water freezes it separates the salt which is why Antartic ice is not salty.

From Wikipedia, the surface temperature of Enceladus is at most 145K, so it is likely that surface ice is pure and it is possible that the liquid water is kept liquid by tidal forces (water in motion freezes at lower temperature). One can even imagine how period crystallization and melting of water by tidal forces has separated out salt somehow.

That said, sodium is extremely easy to ionize. To see that put a few salt crystals into gas or alcohol flame - it will turn yellow from the small quantity of sodium atoms that evaporated from the crystals. Thus, if liquid water was in direct contact with rock it would contain trace amounts of sodium which, when launched into space with the jet, will provide pronounced yellow line.

What is possibly happening is that two ice sheets (pure H20) collide, melt ice with the pressure and spray the resulting water into space. TFA mentions two more possibilities - as well as a speculation that Sodium atoms could be frozen inside water crystals.

Re:How do you know? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748046)

sulfur != sodium

Re:How do you know? (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748192)

Yes, I meant sodium instead of sulfur, but the same principle applies.

Re:How do you know? (4, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748260)

it's not sulfur, it's sodium and it's common enough in everything else that we've found in regard to rocks that sodium is a good bet for a relatively easy target for determining if there is indeed a liquid ocean under the surface. it's already suspected that ganymede has a liquid ocean under the surface with dissolved salts that cause the ocean to be conductive and conductive fluid interiors lend themselves to forming magnetic fields, thus it is also suspected that Enceladus has a similar ocean. Although in this case, the fact that Sodium wasn't detected doesn't fit the hypothesis that Enceladus has a liquid, saly ocean underneath.

Re:How do you know? (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21749000)

It's not possible that the rock there doesn't have sodium in it, because the rock in Enceladus, like the rock on earth, all comes from the same original cloud of material from which the entire solar system was formed.

It had a fair few billion years to mix (made up time, I have no idea how long the cloud of material existed as just a cloud), and then all the planets were made by the giant mutant star goat or something.

Anyway, it makes it easier to speculate as to the content of the rock.

Re:How do you know? (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21749096)

It's not possible that the rock there doesn't have sodium in it, because the rock in Enceladus, like the rock on earth, all comes from the same original cloud of material from which the entire solar system was formed.

It had a fair few billion years to mix (made up time, I have no idea how long the cloud of material existed as just a cloud), and then all the planets were made by the giant mutant star goat or something.

Anyway, it makes it easier to speculate as to the content of the rock.
 
 
Yes, but the solar system is not homogeneous. For instance the isotope ratios on Earth are known to be different from other parts of the solar system. Also, the outer planets are gas giants, while the inner planets are rocky.

Re:How do you know? (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21749162)

Yes, but the solar system is not homogeneous. For instance the isotope ratios on Earth are known to be different from other parts of the solar system. Also, the outer planets are gas giants, while the inner planets are rocky.

Those gas giants are theorised to have rocky cores, And it's not too surprising that gas giants form further out. They can't survive too close to a star. That they form isn't surprising, as there is a lot more gas than rocky material, and we're finding them around other stars, so they seem to be common.

The isotope difference is not because there is an uneven share of the isotope in the solar system region. It's because the Earth is geologically active, and most material which contains said isotopes, like for instance, Iridium (of asteroid fame), is now deep in the planets interior. It's not absent so much as inaccessible. Only when we get hit by an asteroid do we get higher than usual levels of Iridium on the surface.

Re:How do you know? (1)

cyclop (780354) | more than 6 years ago | (#21750366)

And it's not too surprising that gas giants form further out. They can't survive too close to a star.

Extrasolar planet research [wikipedia.org] disproves this claim.

Re:How do you know? (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#21750670)

***(made up time, I have no idea how long the cloud of material existed as just a cloud)***

Not very long at all apparently. It's generally supposed that the sun is about 4.5 billion years old (I've forgotten why we think that, but I do recall that the logic seemed credible.) Every very old meteorite or lunar rock we have dated, dates from about 4.5 billion years ago -- none older. Because of constant reworking of material, very old terrestrial rocks are very rare, but a few microscopic zircons from Australia and Canada are about 4.5 billion years old. So we think that the process of planetary formation probably didn't take all that long. Maybe a few tens of millions of years. Last time I looked, planetary formation was very poorly understood. It's not especially controversial so far as I know -- just poorly understood.

Stars condense. They somehow get to rotating and there is a disk of material around them. Planets somehow organize themselves in the dust cloud. Exactly why stars and their disks rotate is not clear. And exactly how the planets nucleate and accreate material isn't especially clear either. But the doesn't seem to be any reason to believe that the broad picture isn't correct. At least not today, A decade from now or five decades from now may be a different story.

Sodium Depletion Due To... (5, Funny)

haakondahl (893488) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747778)

...overmining by the Europans. Yes, the sole hyperpower in far solar orbit is exploiting the resources of honest, hard-working, frozen Enceladans. Don't buy Morton Salt.

Re:Sodium Depletion Due To... (1)

PixieDust (971386) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747824)

Christ if you don't get modded Funny at LEAST once, the universe will achieve a new level of cruelty.

Re:Sodium Depletion Due To... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21747868)

Getting modded funny is easy if you follow these 5 easy steps [myminicity.com]

Re:Sodium Depletion Due To... (0)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747956)

I heard it was Costco customers sucking up all the frozen Enchiladas.
My spy network is teh sux.

Re:Sodium Depletion Due To... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748060)

low sodium diet...

Re:Sodium Depletion Due To... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748200)

Your name is Frank. I can tell by how stupid you sound.

Re:Sodium Depletion Due To... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748398)

No, they're just trying the wrong Enceladus. The ones I eat have plenty of salt in them.

Assumption check, please (1, Insightful)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747788)

"If you have a long-lived ocean, it's going to have salt in it,"

Just like Lake Michigan?

Re:Assumption check, please (5, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747840)

Isn't Lake Michigan, along with all the other lakes, refilled every so often (on a geological time scale)? Seems to me that any salt that eroded from the rocks would eventually flow downstream and end up in the oceans. And it would get filled up again by rain water, which doesn't contain salt. That is my completely made up reason as to why lakes don't have salt, while oceans and seas do. Anybody know whether or not it makes any sense.

Re:Assumption check, please (1)

Vorghagen (1154761) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747934)

I don't know if it's the correct reason, but it makes sense to me. Pretty much the same reason as freshwater rivers fed from rainfall runoff or melting glaciers.

Re:Assumption check, please (4, Informative)

Cairnarvon (901868) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747962)

Lake Michigan may be a freshwater lake, but it still contains salt. According to my internets, a cubic foot of Lake Michigan water contains about a sixth of an ounce of salt.

Re:Assumption check, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21750288)

Yes, but how much of that salt is from little kids in Chicago peeing while swimming?

Re:Assumption check, please (3, Funny)

MacDork (560499) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747972)

>"If you have a long-lived ocean, it's going to have salt in it,"

Just like Lake Michigan?

Yes, [palomar.edu] just like Lake Michigan.

1 cubic foot of sea water evaporates it yields about 2.2 pounds of salt, but 1 cubic foot of fresh water from Lake Michigan contains only one one-hundredth (0.01) of a pound of salt, or about one sixth of an ounce. Thus, sea water is 220 times saltier than the fresh lake water.

Re:Assumption check, please (3, Informative)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748042)

A glacial lake is not the same as an ocean.

Re:Assumption check, please (1)

cuby (832037) | more than 6 years ago | (#21749572)

the water in that lake has 10000 years (it's from the last glaciation), the water in Enceladus is there from the beginning.

Obligatory (1, Insightful)

PixieDust (971386) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747800)

It's life Jim but not as we know it. It's life Jim but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it Captain!

Seriously though, why is it that life developing elsewhere MUST have sodium? The strictest definition of life doesn't require specific elements or chemicals to be present, only behaviors, or functions if you will. Ignoring something because it doesn't fit neatly with what WE need for life is absurd, ESPECIALLY when looking at something that far from the sun, and thus cold.

/two cents

Re:Obligatory (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21747990)

Sodium existing as a requirement for life is not the issue here. I know this is slashdot and everything, but even TFS clearly states that the question is whether or not an ocean is the source of the water plumes that have been observed. It is the ocean we are looking for and it is the ocean that we believe is an indication of possible life.
You may still take offense to the assumption that water is required, but when millions, nay, billions of dollars are on the line at NASA, you can be sure that greater and brighter minds than you or I have taken all the considerations and the great majority of scientists continue to believe that large bodies of liquid water are sufficient if not necessary conditions for life.
Furthermore, if there is life, but not as we know it, then it is nigh unto impossible for us to begin looking for it. The most resources must necessarily be used in a manner which has the highest chance for success, and the small odds of finding life as we know it still compare favorably to the negligible odds that we find life as we do not.

Re:Obligatory (2, Insightful)

Darby (84953) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748816)

the great majority of scientists continue to believe that large bodies of liquid water are sufficient if not necessary conditions for life.

So you're saying that the great majority of scientists believe that every large body of liquid water in the universe contains life, but there might be life in other places as well?

I think you meant "necessary but not sufficient".

Re:Obligatory (2, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | more than 6 years ago | (#21749210)

No, I think he's trying to say that a large body of water is sufficient for life to exist, but not necessary - the exact opposite of what you are saying.

Re:Obligatory (1)

comradeeroid (1048432) | more than 6 years ago | (#21749434)

But if he's saying that A is sufficient for B but not necessary he's effectively counterarguing his own point. Wouldn't that be unproductive? Let's remove the ambiguous use of sufficient and examine the statements avaiable:

Large bodies of water is necessary for life
Large bodies of water is not necessary for life

Now if we return the word sufficient to the statements:

Large bodies of water is sufficient and necessary for life (this is a redundant statement, if it's necessary no other caracteristic is intresting)
Large bodies of water is sufficient but not necessary for life (this means life could come into existance in large bodies of water of any other of a plethora of possible points of origin since the large bodies of water in themselves isn't necessary)

Re:Obligatory (4, Informative)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748008)

Who said anything about life needing sodium? The only real assumption going on is that life is more likely to occur in a liquid environment. Up until now, they signs have been that there was a liquid environment present, and as such it was a good place to look for life. Better than the alternatives at least. Now, the new research calls into question the existence of the large body of liquid that was thought to exist. So, if there is no liquid, the chances of life existing are lower and the reason for priority missions goes away.

Re:Obligatory (2, Informative)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748436)

As a layperson here's what gets me.

The source of the plumes is "very, very pure water," Dr Schneider concluded, and proposed clean ice, melt water (ice that melts?) or clathrates - a crystal of water, carbon dioxide and ammonia - as alternative sources.

A quick google search "freeze salt water" [google.com] returns:

How do cold-blooded animals survive subfreezing water temperatures as low as 27.1oF without literally being shattered by ice crystals? Salt water with a salinity of 35 ppt (parts per thousand), the average salinity of the open ocean, freezes at 28.5oF. As sea water freezes, the salt becomes more concentrated in the remaining unfrozen water. This makes Antarctic water extremely salty, more so than most of the world's oceans causing it to freeze at a lower temperature.

http://www.gma.org/surfing/antarctica/salt.html [gma.org]

Seems to me like he says he's looking at clean ice and ice in general will not contain salt. What am I missing?

Re:Obligatory (2, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#21750052)

...and since the heat source is deep inside the moon it's not unlikely that the ice that escapes has made it way to the surface as steam, ie: the journey to the surface might act as a natural distillery as the water in the fissures repeatedly boils and freezes.

Re:Obligatory (3, Insightful)

Credible (812975) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748148)

How can this be modded insightful? The absence of water suggests it is less likely to support life. How can you (and clearly a few mods) misread a summary? No one is arguing either that: a. Sodium is required for life or even b. That water is required for life. Simply that the absence of sodium makes water less likely and the absence of water makes life less likely. Given a finite budget and so a finite number of bodies we can visit it make sense to prioritize where we go based on *assumptions* about the conditions that make life more *likely*.

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748188)

Nope, aliens are all homonid bipeds with different sorts of wierd shit with their forehead.

Carbon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21749184)

i have always had the idea that carbon is the only requirement for life.

sodium (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21747852)

there is no life in the toxic atmosphere of uranus.

so (2, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747870)

send the probe to enceladus anyways

just put a salt shaker on it

problem solved

sheesh these scientist types and their "problems"

Off the map? (3, Insightful)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747900)

At stake is whether Saturn's moon could support alien life and is thus a worthy target for a NASA exploratory mission to detect it.
I can think of plenty of outer planet exploration missions that don't have detection of life as a goal. I think the presence of liquid water will keep a mission to Enceladus on the roadmap. Astrobiology is strapped for cash anyway.

Re:Off the map? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21747966)

There is no excuse for "strapped for cash" when you can apply for grants from the government to pay for this [myminicity.com]

Keck Telescope (0, Troll)

Dr Actual Factual (1205136) | more than 6 years ago | (#21747964)

The Keck Telescope made some much more interesting findings a little closer to home, but Chinese interests are preventing full disclosure [tinyurl.com]

Why is it so unheard of??? (1)

What Is Dot (792062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748014)

After taking an astronomy class, I am not surprised at all that scientists would detect readings that contradict their model of what "should be happening" on an alien moon. The history of astronomy is a history of failed predictions. Let the evidence speak for itself.

Re:Why is it so unheard of??? (1)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748248)

Be careful, or you'll be reported to the Bad Astronomy Grand Inquisitors. And by the way, there is no ocean beneath the ice on Enceladus unless and until it's declared within an astrophysical journal because things don't exist unless there is math to demonstrate at least an order of magnitude of certainty that it can be possible. Images and videos must first be converted to retroactive computer simulations that demonstrate without a doubt that the dominant paradigm could be true, so until that happens, appeals to simple vision will not apply. Unfortunately, for now, there appears to be no special urgency to get to all of that as everybody's already quite busy re-discovering Kristian Birkeland's lab results from 100 years ago.

We live in a sad, sad world.

So, what, in the pln2bz world, is astronomy? (1)

APODNereid (1203758) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748428)

I was wondering how long before a chance to ask this came up; not long at all, as it turns out.

Have you, yourself, stood on the surface of Enceladus pln2bz? No? Then how do you know it's real?

No, this is a serious question ... if you do not have direct, personal experience of anything astronomical (beyond the Earth's atmosphere), whence comes your understanding of it?

Perhaps you've got a telescope from Meade or a competitor in your backyard; perhaps you've observed Saturn through the eyepiece, and seen a spot of light which you concludes is Enceladus? If so, how did you work out that there's ice on it?

Why is it important to ask these questions? Because if you choose to tilt at modern astronomy (planetary science, space science, astrophysics, etc), you should be prepared to construct an alternative universe, free of all the inputs which depend crucially on the 'mathematical models' you reject ... like those which go into the design, construction, launch, etc of the spacecraft which gathered the data you so conveniently use to heap scorn on the work of the professionals.

Re:So, what, in the pln2bz world, is astronomy? (0, Offtopic)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748560)

Oh man, I'm in trouble now!!!

Re:Why is it so unheard of??? (1)

psued0ch (1200431) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748626)

You must understand that if astronomers can determine the atomic value of a speck of matter millions of light years away, then I have full faith in them being able to analyze the behavioral patterns of a planet's geosphere.

All these moons are yours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748120)

except Enceladus [msplinks.com] .

Waste of Money (5, Interesting)

mothlos (832302) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748124)

Although a lack of salt is a fine excuse to not send a mission here, the better reason is that these missions are a tremendous waste of taxpayer resources. While I am no free market capitalist, it is waste like this which give fire to those who say that government can't make financially sound decisions. Lets focus our space program on useful tasks such as orbital solar energy collection and leave the fruitless search for extraterrestrial life to the hobbiests.

Re:Waste of Money (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748224)

It's really not a total waste of government money, because once alien life is found it will be a great tool for controling the masses through fear. Just think - instead of fearing another country we could now fear life from other planets. That should keep us busy for a couple of generations...

Re:Waste of Money (2, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748808)

these missions are a tremendous waste of taxpayer resources.

I completely disagree. Manned missions are the real waste. Unmanned missions are a bargain compared to manned missions. They've made great discoveries, and someday may make fantastic discoveries, these unmanned probes. For example, The "Pioneer gravity anomaly" may end up rewriting physics and give us entirely new technology. One does not know until they go there.
     

Re:Waste of Money (5, Insightful)

rve (4436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748842)

It costs very little. The entire NASA funding is less than half of a percent of the government budget, it really is a pittance. Only a very small percentage of the NASA budget is used for space exploration.

One Iraq war for example costs (so far) about a thousand times as much as putting robots on mars.

Spending a very small amount of money on building a legacy isn't useless.

0.5% is huge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21749924)

Yes, we have to invest in our legacy, but 0.5% on astronomy is a huge expenditure. How much should we spend on assyriology, dermatology, climatology, ichthyology, geology, theology, bacteriology, topology and so on? You have more than 200 interesting, useful and sometimes vital branches of the sciences, and you can't give them all 0.5% of your total government budget.

Re:0.5% is huge (1)

GTMoogle (968547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21750156)

Nor do those sciences need 0.5%.

Re:Waste of Money (2, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748860)

Lets focus our space program on useful tasks such as orbital solar energy collection

Lol. You do that, and tell me when you find a way to make it so that increasing your capital costs a hundredfold on every square meter of solar panels (by launching them into space), as well as your maintenance costs, in order to get ~3 times the power per square meter, and then lose a good chunk of your gain in beamed energy transmission, a profitable deal. While you're at it, build a perpetual motion machine. ;)

and leave the fruitless search for extraterrestrial life to the hobbiests

Extraterrestrial life at least makes sense. We know it works; we have one positive datapoint. It's not much to go on, but at least it's something.

Re:Waste of Money (2, Insightful)

GTMoogle (968547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21750204)

Really, more to the point, life is a tremendous waste of time if you're not learning about the world in which you live. As one of many people interested in the subject matter, I want the government to fund more science of all kinds, especially in space and biology. It's damaging to require science to have immediate payoffs. You're simply hitting nearby targets. Funding all science for the sake of knowledge EXPOSES more targets, letting us know the possibilities. THEN we can let the free market work on commercializing the discoveries. We'll get much farther that way.

Re:Waste of Money (2, Insightful)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 6 years ago | (#21750328)

Lets focus our space program on useful tasks such as orbital solar energy collection and leave the fruitless search for extraterrestrial life to the hobbiests.

How do you know what will be useful in the future? Many useful technologies we take for granted to day are the products of research into things that were not obviously going to be useful at the time. If you limit all your research to only things which are immediately useful you are seriously limiting the speed of advancement.

For the most part, commercial organisations don't spend money on blue-sky projects and hobbiests don't have the money to spend - this means it's either down to governments to fund the research or we can forget about such advancements altogether.

Not a word about Europa in a decade. What gives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748144)

Not a word about Europa in a decade. What gives?

Re:Not a word about Europa in a decade. What gives (1)

bogjobber (880402) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748520)

All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landings there.

(No caps for lameness filter.)

Re:Not a word about Europa in a decade. What gives (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748840)

You know, Arthur Clarke has had such a great career. We really ought to find a way to keep him alive for another hundred years. Given that he has little to lose by trying, I am sure he would be up for the attempt.

If the source is not an ocean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748240)

...clearly the jets are releasing aerosol cheese.

That won't work (1)

SetupWeasel (54062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748318)

"Controversial research questions the moon's promise as a target in the search for life beyond Earth."

You are never going to get an NSF grant for research like that. I'll help you with the abstract. Start like this: "Life possible in habitat previously thought to be too harsh." Then hand wave a bit about the elements you have found and any formation that might conceivably be formed by a liquid, and ... BAM! Research money.

You're welcome.

Could it be rock free ice? (2, Interesting)

J05H (5625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748510)

Subject asks it all. Would it be possible for Enceladus to be pure ices with little or no rocks? It is a round moon, so it should be differentiated. Could that differentiation be layers of ices (say water Ice III below, leading up to softer ices including other volatiles) without rocks? Enceladus could still have an ocean, just one without rocks. This presents potential life-genesis issues (which generally require rock-chemistry) but presents no inherent conflict with the idea of it having an ocean.

Josh

Re:Could it be rock free ice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748924)

Copied from the Wikipedia article:

"Mass estimates from the Voyager program missions suggested that Enceladus was composed almost entirely of water ice.[24] However, based on the effects of Enceladus's gravity on Cassini, its mass was determined to be much higher than previously thought, yielding a density of 1.61 g/cm.[2] This density is higher than Saturn's other mid-sized icy satellites, indicating that Enceladus contains a greater percentage of silicates and iron. With additional material besides water ice, Enceladus's interior may have experienced comparatively more heating from the decay of radioactive elements."

[2] Porco, C. C.; et al. (2006); Cassini Observes the Active South Pole of Enceladus, Science, Vol. 311, No. 5766, pp. 1393-1401

Thetans with a problem (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21748680)

Clearly, there are Thetans down there that cannot stomache the enchilada...

Aren't Sodium and H20 a fuel source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21748752)

Maybe the aliens refined all the sodium out of it and used it for fuel.

Think of it like distillation (4, Interesting)

Composite_Armor (1203112) | more than 6 years ago | (#21749038)

Someone needs to look at this from a thermodynamic perspective. If there is in fact water on Saturn's moon, it must come from the surface. I am not sure why orbiting clouds of frozen water vapor (which i believe must have sublimated from the icy surface) are expected to contain Sodium. Thermodynamically speaking, species with low mass, and high activity (The light elements H, N, O, C, F) tend to undergo phase change before more heavy elements. These low density gases would exit into the moons atmosphere more readily than a sodium atom, even if the surface contained equal concentrations of all. (on wiki it says the atmosphere is Water, 4%Nitrogen, 3.2%CO2, and 1.7%CH4) makes sense so far, Also, i believe that if there was an ocean on this moon, the surface must be ice of near pure water. If water is going to freeze, it will do so first with minimal sodium. The sodium content in the ice will increase when the ocean concentration rises, eventually precipitating solid sodium compound when a saturation limit is reached. This only means that the outer shell of the moons frozen surface might be mostly clean ice I believe any sodium that could be detected in orbit must first diffuse to the surface through this concentration gradient. And then gain sufficient activation energy from the suns rays to enter the gas phase for an instant. I think these scientists could be looking for the wrong indicator. If we are searching for water, shouldn't we be searching for water? It is possible they have the right idea, but our instruments are not precise enough to measure such a small Sodium concentration. And i'm not sure the Seas of Saturn will follow our earthbound concepts of oceanography.

sad (2, Insightful)

m2943 (1140797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21749556)

The Enceladus flagship mission is one of four - along with those to Europa, Titan and Jupiter - competing for funding and currently under review by Nasa.

It's sad that not all four of them get funded. This kind of mission is much more important and interesting than the shuttle.

The chances of anything coming from Enceladus... (2, Funny)

stiller (451878) | more than 6 years ago | (#21750010)

At midnight, on the 12th of August, a huge mass of luminous gas erupted from Enceladus and sped towards Earth. Across two hundred million miles of void, invisibly hurtling towards us, came the first of the missiles that were to bring so much calamity to Earth. As I watched, there was another jet of gas. It was another missile, starting on its way.
And that's how it was for the next ten nights. A flare, spurting out from Enceladus. Bright green, drawing a green mist behind it; a beautiful, but somehow disturbing sight. Ogilby, the astronomer, assured me we were in no danger. He was convinced there could be no living thing on that remote, forbidding planet.
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