Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Ingredients for life' present on Saturn's moon Enceladus, say scientists

Date:
February 9, 2010
Source:
University College London
Summary:
Some of 'the major ingredients for life' are present on one of Saturn's moons, according to scientists. A team working on the Cassini-Huygens mission have found negatively charged water ions in the ice plume of Enceladus. Their analysis of data gathered during the spacecraft's plume fly-throughs in 2008 provide evidence for the presence of liquid water.

Cassini captured this stunning mosaic of Enceladus as the spacecraft sped away from the geologically active moon of Saturn.
Credit: NASA

Some of 'the major ingredients for life' are present on one of Saturn's moons, according to University College London scientists.

A team from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory working on the Cassini-Huygens mission have found negatively charged water ions in the ice plume of Enceladus.

Their analysis of data gathered during the spacecraft's plume fly-throughs in 2008 provide evidence for the presence of liquid water.

The spacecraft's plasma spectrometer, used to gather this data, also found other species of negatively charged ions including hydrocarbons.

MSSL's Professor Andrew Coates, lead author of a paper on the latest discovery, said: "While it's no surprise that there is water there, these short-lived ions are extra evidence for sub-surface water and where there's water, carbon and energy, some of the major ingredients for life are present.

The surprise for us was to look at the mass of these ions. There were several peaks in the spectrum, and when we analysed them we saw the effect of water molecules clustering together one after the other."

Enceladus thus joins Earth, Titan and comets where negatively charged ions are known to exist in the solar system. Negative oxygen ions were discovered in Earth's ionosphere at the dawn of the space age. At Earth's surface, negative water ions are present where liquid water is in motion, such as waterfalls or crashing ocean waves.

The plasma spectrometer measures the density, flow velocity and temperature of ions and electrons that enter the instrument. But since the discovery of Enceladus' water ice plume, the instrument has also successfully captured and analysed samples of material in the jets.

Early in its mission, Cassini-Huygens discovered the plume that fountains water vapour and ice particles above Enceladus. Since then, scientists have found that these water products dominate Saturn's magnetic environment and create Saturn's huge E-ring.

At Titan, the same instrument detected extremely large negative hydrocarbon ions with masses up to 13,800 times that of hydrogen. Dr Coates and his colleagues believe large ions are the source of the smog-like haze that blocks most of Titan's surface from view.

The new findings add to astronomers' growing knowledge of the detailed chemistry of Enceladus' plume and Titan's atmosphere, giving new understanding of environments beyond Earth where prebiotic or life-sustaining environments might exist.

Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which funds the UK involvement in Cassini-Huygens, said: "This measurement of water ions in the ice plume of Enceladus is incredibly exciting and provides us with further hope of finding water and maybe even life on this distant icy moon."

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a co-operative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University College London. "'Ingredients for life' present on Saturn's moon Enceladus, say scientists." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209144657.htm>.
University College London. (2010, February 9). 'Ingredients for life' present on Saturn's moon Enceladus, say scientists. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209144657.htm
University College London. "'Ingredients for life' present on Saturn's moon Enceladus, say scientists." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209144657.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 20, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft makes a scheduled Easter Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station

Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station

AP (Apr. 20, 2014) Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The SpaceX company's cargo ship, Dragon, spent two days chasing the International Space Station following its launch from Cape Canaveral. (April 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Extremely Large Telescope Could Spot Alien Life

Extremely Large Telescope Could Spot Alien Life

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) Scientists are preparing to blow up a Chilean mountain to construct the Extremely Large Telescope, which will take detailed pictures of exoplanets. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) FOREO, a Swedish cosmetics company, says it wants to brighten the moon to lower electricity costs. 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