Salt in ice plume on Enceladus points to presence of liquid ocean

April 30th, 2009 - 12:44 pm ICT by ANI  

London, April 30 (ANI): Scientists, studying measurements made by Cassini spacecraft, have found salt in the ice plumes that bloom above Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which suggest the presence of a liquid ocean on the satellite.

The Cassini spacecraft flew through a plume on October 9, 2008, and measured the molecular weight of chemicals in the ice.

According to a report in New Scientist, Frank Postberg of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany, and colleagues, found traces of sodium in the form of salt and sodium bicarbonate.

The chemicals would have originated in the rocky core of Enceladus, so to reach a plume they must have leached from the core via liquid water.

Observations from Earth in 2007 spotted no sign of sodium, casting doubt on such a subsurface sea.

Although the salt could have been leached out by an ancient ocean which since froze solid, that freezing process would concentrate most of the salt very far from the surface of the moon’s ice, according to Julie Castillo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“It is easier to imagine that the salts are present in a liquid ocean below the surface,” she said. “That’s why this detection, if confirmed, is very important,” she added. (ANI)

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