Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Saturn's A Ring Has Oxygen, But Not Life

Date:
March 3, 2005
Source:
University Of Michigan
Summary:
Data from the Cassini-Huygens satellite showing oxygen ions in the atmosphere around Saturn's rings suggests once again that molecular oxygen alone isn't a reliable indicator of whether a planet can support life.

The Hubble Space Telescope captured these images of Saturn's seasons from a timespan of 1996 through 2000.
Credit: Image courtesy of University Of Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Data from the Cassini-Huygens satellite showing oxygen ions in the atmosphere around Saturn's rings suggests once again that molecular oxygen alone isn't a reliable indicator of whether a planet can support life.

That and other data are outlined in two papers in the Feb. 25 issue of the journal Science co-authored by University of Michigan engineering professors Tamas Gombosi, J. Hunter Waite and Kenneth Hansen; and T.E. Cravens from the University of Kansas. The papers belong to a series of publications on data collected by Cassini as it passed through the rings of Saturn on July 1.

Molecular oxygen forms when two oxygen atoms bond together and is known in chemical shorthand as O2. On Earth, it is a continual byproduct of plant respiration, and animals need this oxygen for life. But in Saturn's atmosphere, molecular oxygen was created without life present, through a chemical reaction with the sun's radiation and icy particles that comprise Saturn's rings.

"That means you don't need biology to produce an O2 atmosphere," Waite said. "If we want indicators to use in the search for life on other planets, we need to know what to look for. But oxygen alone isn't it."

Because Saturn's rings are made of water ice, one would expect to find atoms derived from water, such as atomic oxygen (one atom) rather than O2, Waite said. However, the paper, called "Oxygen Ions Observed Near Saturn's A Ring," suggests the formation of molecular oxygen atmospheres happens more often in the outer solar system than expected. There is earlier evidence of molecular oxygen atmospheres elsewhere in the solar system—for instance above the icy Galilean moons of Jupiter—he said.

Four U-M College of Engineering faculty members are involved in the Cassini mission to explore Saturn's rings and some of its moons. Waite leads the team operating the ion and neutral mass spectrometer, the instrument that detected and measured the molecular oxygen ions. Other team members are J.G. Luhmann of the University of California, Berkeley; R.V. Yelle, of the University of Arizona, Tuscon; W.T. Kasprzak, of the Goddard Space Flight Center; R.L. McNutt of Johns Hopkins University; and W.H. Ip, of the National Central University, Taiwan.

A second, viewpoint paper called, "Saturn's Variable Magnetosphere," by Hansen and Gombosi, who is chair of the College of Engineering's department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, reviews key findings from the other Cassini teams, including new information that contradicts data gathered 25 years ago, when the space craft Voyager passed by the planet.

The University of Michigan College of Engineering is ranked among the top engineering schools in the country. Michigan Engineering boasts one of the largest research budgets of any public university, at $135 million for 2004. Michigan Engineering has 11 departments and two NSF Engineering Research Centers. Within those departments and centers, there is a special emphasis on research in three emerging industries: Nanotechnology and integrated microsystems; cellular and molecular biotechnology; and information technology. The College advances academic scholarship and markets cutting edge research to improve public heath and well-being.

For more information see the CoE home page: http://www.engin.umich.edu/index.html


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Michigan. "Saturn's A Ring Has Oxygen, But Not Life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 March 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050225104651.htm>.
University Of Michigan. (2005, March 3). Saturn's A Ring Has Oxygen, But Not Life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050225104651.htm
University Of Michigan. "Saturn's A Ring Has Oxygen, But Not Life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050225104651.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

AP (Apr. 15, 2014) Star gazers in parts of North and South America got a rare treat early Tuesday morning - a total eclipse of the moon. (April 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) New research says the urea from urine could be recycled for fuel. Urea is filtered out of wastewater when making drinking water. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Approves Mon. Space Station Supply Launch

NASA Approves Mon. Space Station Supply Launch

AP (Apr. 13, 2014) NASA decided Sunday to stick with the planned launch of the SpaceX cargo ship, despite a critical computer outage at the space station.Liftoff is scheduled for 4:58 p.m. Monday from Cape Canaveral. (April 13) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Blood Moon' Attracts Stargazers, Conspiracy Theories

'Blood Moon' Attracts Stargazers, Conspiracy Theories

Newsy (Apr. 13, 2014) Tuesday's total lunar eclipse will bring out both stargazers and conspiracy theorists alike as the blood red moon fills up the early morning sky. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins