Another Ocean

We are not alone.

Well, we may yet turn out to be alone — in the sense of being (along with whales, primates, and various other earthbound animals) the only sentient living beings in the universe.

But our world ocean is evidently not the only one there is. Astronomers have just published a new paper in Nature confirming that “a saltwater ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Enceladus [above], one of Saturn’s inner moons.”

From the summary at Sky and Telescope:

The recent Cassini findings hint at a new location in the solar system where life might arise. “This finding is a crucial new piece of evidence showing that environmental conditions favorable to the emergence of life can be sustained on icy bodies orbiting gas giant planets,” said Nicolas Altobelli, a scientist at the European Space Agency who was a member of the Cassini team.

From the Daily Galaxy (yes, there is such a publication):

Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus is emerging as the most habitable spot beyond Earth in the Solar System for life as we know it . . . “It has liquid water, organic carbon, nitrogen [in the form of ammonia], and an energy source,” says Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. Besides Earth, he says, “there is no other environment in the Solar System where we can make all those claims.”

Enceladus del Mar anyone?  Sorry, I couldn’t resist . . .

Source: F. Postberg, J. Schmidt, J. Hillier, S. Kempf, R. Srama. 2011. A salt-water reservoir as the source of a compositionally stratified plume on Enceladus. Nature, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nature10175

One Response to “Another Ocean”

  1. jebyrnes says:

    All these worlds are yours, except Enceladus. Attempt no landings there.

    Oh, wait, wrong moon of the wrong planet…

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