New signs of hidden seas on Saturn moon Enceladus

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New signs of hidden sea on Saturn moon

Scientists say Enceladus has telltale signature of sodium chloride

"New research suggests the ice volcanoes blasting off Saturn's moon Enceladus are rooted in an underground sea, a finding that raises the prospect for microbial life.

Scientists have been trying to figure out what is happening on Enceladus to generate the icy geysers that have been photographed, analyzed and sampled by the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft.

Astronomers used ground-based telescopes to look for molecules of sodium, which should be present if rock had mingled with liquid water. They didn't find any, silencing proponents making a case for a subsurface sea on Enceladus.

That point is now moot. At a meeting of European geoscientists in Vienna last week, Frank Postberg with Germany's Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics and colleagues explained that the sodium is, in fact, there — it was simply bound in a form (sodium chloride) not detectable by Earth-bound telescopes.

"This is only possible if the plume source is liquid water that is or has been in contact with the rocky material of Enceladus' core," the scientists wrote in the EGU General Assembly's 2009 Geophysical Research Abstracts."

Credit - Discovery

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