Earth may display its seas on its surface for all the Universe to see, but further out in the Solar System liquid oceans are kept discreetly under wraps, hidden beneath cratered surfaces of ice and rock. And while Saturn’s moon Enceladus sprays its salty subsurface ocean out into space, other moons are less ostentatious — Europa, Ganymede, Titan… all are thought to have considerable underground oceans of liquid water, based on measurements of their mass, density, and shape.
Now, scientists are suggesting that Saturn’s 700-mile-wide moon Dione may also have a subsurface ocean… and may have even once exhibited icy geysers like its smaller sibling Enceladus.
According to research by NASA astronomers using the next-generation optics of the 10-meter Keck II telescope, Jupiter’s ice-encrusted moon Europa has hydrogen peroxide (aka H2O2) across much of the surface of its leading hemisphere, a compound that could potentially provide energy for life if it has found its way into the moon’s subsurface ocean.
“Europa has the liquid water and elements, and we think that compounds like peroxide might be an important part of the energy requirement,” said JPL scientist Kevin Hand, the paper’s lead author. “The availability of oxidants like peroxide on Earth was a critical part of the rise of complex, multicellular life.”
I’ve written about this a couple of times before and put up polls here on Lights in the Dark, but now it’s actually semi-official: you can vote on the names for Pluto’s newest moons!
(Looks like they may have taken some of our earlier suggestions too!)
Since we’re all in the democratic mood here today in the U.S., how about another chance to put your vote in on something: names for Pluto’s newest moons!
Cassini’s at it again! After its last flyby of Titan the spacecraft changed course, heading up and away from Saturn’s equatorial plane at an angle that will allow it to better study the rings and the planet’s polar regions.
This raw image, captured on May 23, shows Cassini’s view as it heads upwards. It shows a view of Saturn’s rings and two shepherd moons, Pandora (foreground) and Atlas.
It’s nice to see some views like this again from Cassini!
The 662-mile-wide Tethys is one of the most heavily cratered worlds in the solar system, tied with sister moons Rhea and Dione. In this recent raw image captured by Cassini on April 14, we can see some of the moon’s larger craters, including Melanthius with its enormous central peak. Read the rest of this entry