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> Water.... Water, On Saturn.


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Posted: Mar 9 2006, 05:13 PM
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Wouldn't it be great if this happens to be for real?

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Signs of water found on one of Saturn's moons
Planet has 31 known moons


Friday, March 10, 2006

CNN) -- The Cassini space probe has found evidence of geysers erupting from underground pools of liquid water on Saturn's moon Enceladus, scientists announced on Thursday.

High-definition pictures beamed back from the probe showed huge plumes of ice coming from the moon's south pole.

"We're inferring that there is a liquid water reservoir under the surface and it's erupting in a geyser-like fashion, maybe like the Yellowstone geysers you would see," said Linda Spilker, Cassini Deputy Project Scientist.

Spilker said it was very surprising to see this much activity on such a small, cold moon. The average temperature at Enceladus' south pole is minus 307 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 188 Celsius) -- that's a little warmer than the moon's equator, which was minus 316 Fahrenheit (minus 193 Celsius).

She said that the water was likely kept at the relatively warm temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (zero Celsius) by tidal or radioactive forces. It freezes instantly as it escapes vents in the surface.

"At first we thought it might be like an ice volcano, with little ice particles coming out. And then, as the analysis continued, we looked at the amount of material coming out ... there had to be more of a pressure source underneath," she said.

Water might be an indication that life could exist on Enceladus. But Spilker was not ready to suggest life existed there.

"That's a very tough question to answer, but certainly something that we'll be thinking about now that there appears to be a liquid water source on Enceladus," she said.

"Because on the Earth, in ocean beds that are deep on the ocean floor, where there is no sunlight or anything, you get life forms that can exist in those conditions where you get the ingredients for life out of those volcanic vents."

Scientists are searching for signs of water on Mars and believe that Jupiter's moon Europa has a liquid ocean deep under it's frozen crust. (Watch finding puts Enceladus in an elite group -- 1:22)

"Now Enceladus joins the ranks of those bodies, Mars and Europa, that have evidence of liquid water in them and also energy sources coming from radioactive heating and tidal heating that make the very interesting places to look for the origins of life," said Torrence Johnson, a member of the Cassini team. "These are habitats that are similar to types of places we think life may have originated and could possibly survive in today."

The finding's were published in this week's issue of "Science."

Cassini is scheduled to fly within 217 miles (350 kilometers) of Enceladus in 2008, and Spilker said scientists may try to have it fly through the plumes and collect samples.

In the meantime, Spilker said Cassini probably would take measurements from a distance.

"Thinking ahead, maybe this might mean that some day we might want to land a probe near a crack on Enceladus or something and maybe be able to probe more precisely what's happening," she said.

Spilker said the findings already have answered some questions about Saturn's rings.

"One of the questions that Cassini came in with was that the E-ring around Saturn was thickest around Enceladus, and we knew somehow Enceladus was involved in being the source of the E-ring," she said. "And now we know how that's happening. Through these geyser-like plumes, that's the material that goes on to create the bulk of the E-ring."

Cassini, which was funded by NASA and the European and Italian space agencies, launched in 1997 and took seven years to make the 934 million-mile (1.5 billion-kilometer) trip to Saturn.

Last January, the European Huygens spacecraft detached from Cassini and landed on Titan, Saturn's largest moon.


http://edition.cnn.com/2006/TECH/space/03/...adus/index.html


this is the article about Last January.

QUOTE

Images reveal Titan's secrets
Huygens makes successful landing on Saturn moon


By Michael Coren,CNN
Saturday, January 15, 2005

The first three images from the surface of Titan, largest of Saturn's 33 moons, show what appear to be drainage channels, a shoreline, flooded regions surrounded by elevated terrain and a plain strewn with what may be large ice boulders.

Scientists analyzing the gray images were ecstatic with what they were seeing, one saying the terrain seemed strangely familiar, not unlike places on Earth, Mars and other planets -- suggesting a commonality in the solar system.

The images were taken by the Huygens probe, which reached the surface of Titan on Friday morning after being launched from the Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn.

Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency, which led the Huygens mission to Titan, exclaimed "magnifique" as the first image was displayed on screens at ESA mission control in Darmstadt, Germany.

Others stared in rapt attention, some crying and applauding, as the image appeared.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is an unprecedented $3.3 billion effort among NASA, the European Space Agency and Italy's space program to study Saturn and its 33 known moons. The two vehicles were launched together from Florida in 1997.

The first image was snapped from 16 kilometers (10 miles) above Titan's surface. The second was taken at an altitude of 8 kilometers (5 miles). Both showed features as small as 40 meters (132 feet) across.

Dark winding streambeds and a shoreline were evident in the first image.

"The drainage channels are not like rivers on Earth, but maybe box canyons with seepage flowing down to what looks very much like a shoreline," said Martin Tomasko, lead scientist for the probe's only optical instrument. "We predicted [this] but we've never been able to see this with any clarity."

The geologic features were likely carved by a flowing liquid, but not water. Liquid hydrocarbons such as methane or ethane are believed to cover at least part of the surface.

Temperatures on Titan hover around minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit (180 Celsius) and would immediately freeze any liquid surface water.

The second image showed dark regions with sharp boundaries surrounded by brighter areas that appeared to be elevated terrain, scientists said. The dark regions appeared to be flatter, suggesting they are flooded or have been flooded, they said.

The third image, taken as the Huygens probe neared the surface, showed a flat landscape scattered with rocks that may be large ice boulders, scientists said.

Scientists said at least 350 more images were being processed.

"We are the first visitors to Titan and the scientific data we are collecting now shall unveil the secrets of this new world," Dordain said as Huygens' first packet of data from Titan was successfully transmitted.

He called it a fantastic success for Europe and the spirit of international collaboration that brought together 19 nations for the Cassini-Huygens mission.

Huygens' batteries -- designed to last just a few minutes after touchdown -- continued to power the probe's transmitter for more than two hours after landing.

The data is now streaming to Earth, via the satellite Cassini, as a worldwide network of radio telescopes captures it.

Eager scientists, some who have dedicated 25 years to the project, are poring over the data, translating ones and zeros into images and measurements of the moon's atmosphere.

"This data is for posterity," said David Southwood, director of science for ESA. "It's for mankind. ... Scientists are going to argue as we piece together our place in the universe, of how we came to be. It's just the beginning for our science teams."

Earlier in the day, radio telescopes confirmed the probe survived re-entry, successfully deployed its three parachutes and landed on the moon's icy surface.

Cassini received information until it passed beyond the moon's horizon and out of contact. Now Cassini has turned toward Earth and is sending the data to scientists.

They hope all the data will survive transmission uncorrupted, said Bob Mitchell, program manager for the Cassini-Huygens mission at NASA.

Huygens reached the surface of Saturn's largest moon on Friday around 7:45 a.m. ET.

"We have a signal. We know that Huygens is alive meaning the dream is alive," Dordain said. "This is already an engineering success and we will see, later this afternoon, if this is a scientific success."

The saucer-shaped probe has completed the final hours of its 2.2 billion-mile mission to Titan, an enormous moon larger than the planet Pluto.

The Huygens probe, about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, spun silently toward Titan after it detached from the Cassini spacecraft on December 24. Cassini will remain in orbit around Saturn until at least July 2008.

The mission "will probably help answer some of the big questions that NASA has in general about origins and where we came from and where life came from," Mitchell said.

Titan's atmosphere, a murky mix of nitrogen, methane and argon, resembles Earth's more than 3.8 billion years ago. Scientists think the moon may shed light on how life began.

Finding living organisms, however, is a remote possibility. "It is not out of the question, but it is certainly not the first place I would look," said Candice Hansen, a scientist for the Cassini-Huygens mission. "It's really very cold."

A lack of sunlight has put Titan into a deep-freeze, hindering chemical reactions needed for organic life.

New discoveries
The mysteries of Saturn, the sixth planet from the sun, have always enticed researchers. Scientists are perplexed why Saturn, a gas-giant composed primarily of hydrogen and helium, releases more energy than it absorbs from faint sunlight.

Titan is also the only moon in the solar system to retain a substantial atmosphere, one even thicker than Earth's.

The 703-pound, battery-powered Huygens probe parachuted through Titan's clouds of methane and nitrogen for two-and-a-half hours, sampling gases and capturing panoramic pictures along the way.

Huygens hit the upper atmosphere 789 miles (1,270 kilometers) above the moon at a speed of about 13,700 mph (22,000 km/h). A series of three parachutes slowed the craft to just 15 mph (24 km/h).

Chutes and special insulation protected Huygens from temperature swings and violent air currents. Strong winds -- in excess of 311 mph (500 km/h) -- buffeted the craft.

Its sensors deduced wind speed, atmospheric pressure and the conductivity of Titan's air. Methane clouds and possibly hydrocarbon rain was analyzed by an onboard gas chromatograph. A microphone listened for thunder.

Three rotating cameras took panoramic views of the moon and a radar altimeter mapped Titan's topography. A special lamp illuminated the probe's landing spot to help determine the surface composition.

Cassini crossed Saturn's rings without mishap in June 2004 and produced the most revealing photos yet of the rings and massive gas-giant.

A problem with the design of an antennae on Cassini almost scrapped Huygens' mission, but engineers altered the spacecrafts' flight plans to resolve the transmission problem.


When we have finished with this planet. Will this planet be our next home?

DARKRAVENESS xxxxxx

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"Foolish is the man who never reads a newspaper; even more foolish is the man who believes what he reads just because it is in the newspaper."

- August von Schlozer, German historian and journalist of the late 18th century.
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Posted: Mar 11 2006, 01:41 AM
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Here's another report...

QUOTE
Water plumes spewing from 'ice volcano' seen on a moon of Saturn
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 10 March 2006
QUOTE
An unusual "ice volcano" on Enceladus, one of the many moons of Saturn, appears to be spewing out plumes of water, Nasa scientists report.

The Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, has taken images of bizarre volcanic features at the moon's southern pole which could indicate bodies of liquid water on the otherwise frozen satellite.

If water is being heated by volcanic activity to its liquid state then there is a slim possibility that life might also exist on Enceladus, said Carolyn Porco, the Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

"We realise that this is a radical conclusion - that we may have evidence for liquid water with a body so small and so cold," Dr Porco said. "However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms."

High-resolution images taken by the Cassini space probe show icy jets and towering plumes ejecting huge quantities of particles at high speed.

Nasa scientists have ruled out the idea that the particles are produced or blown off the moon's surface by vapour created when warm water ice converts directly to a gas. Instead, they believe that the jets may be erupting from pockets of liquid water above freezing point at the surface of the moon, like colder versions of the hot volcanic geysers found on Earth.

"Other moons in the Solar System have liquid-water oceans covered by kilometres of icy crust," said Andrew Ingersoll of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California.

"What's different here is that pockets of liquid water may be no more than tens of metres below the surface," Dr Ingersoll said.

The Cassini , which has also flown close to the mysterious rings of Saturn, was inspecting the distinctive "tiger-stripe" pattern that dominates the southern pole of Enceladus' icy surface. The polar region appears to be cracked and littered with house-sized blocks of ice but in one region there is also a "hot spot" generated by volcanic activity. Any liquid water in the plume quickly freezes as it rises, until its ionized material reaches Saturn's atmosphere and replenishes the planet's E-ring. Some of the plume material may fall back to the moon's surface as fresh snow, brightening the plains between the moon's tiger-striped troughs, according to the journal Science where the latest research is published.

"Models of the plume suggest that it may be fed by several smaller jets of material and driven by warmer temperatures below the moon's icy surface," the journal says.

John Spenser, a Cassini scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said: "We previously knew of at most three places where active volcanism exists - Jupiter's moon Io, Earth and possibly Neptune's moon Triton.

"Cassini changes all that, making Enceladus the latest member of this every exclusive club, and one of the most exciting places in the solar system," Dr Spenser said. There has also been oxygen detected in the moon's atmosphere.

Cassini will get another chance to view Enceladus in the spring of 2008 when it flies within 220 miles of the moon.

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/scienc...ticle350375.ece




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