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.

Related Articles


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 November 28, 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 November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) The International Space Station is now using a proof-of-concept 3D printer to test additive printing in a weightless, isolated environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Soyuz Spacecraft Docks With International Space Station: NASA

Soyuz Spacecraft Docks With International Space Station: NASA

AFP (Nov. 24, 2014) A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Italy's first female astronaut safely docks with the International Space Station, according to NASA. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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