What lurks within the subsurface ocean of Enceladus ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
New data from Cassini has suggested that Enceladus' liquid water ocean may be very close to its surface.
Like Jupiter's moon Europa, Saturn's moon Enceladus is considered to be one of the most promising places to look for signs of microbial alien life within our own solar system.
In addition to the presence of a subsurface ocean hidden beneath an icy crust, this small, distant world is also known to be home to geysers which spray warm water all the way up in to space.
Now using the same RADAR instrument that it used to peer beneath the thick atmosphere of Titan, Cassini has revealed that Enceladus' icy crust may actually be much thinner than expected.
Its findings indicate that the surface ice at the south pole may in fact be as little as 2km thick.
"These observations provide a unique insight into what is going on beneath the surface," said study lead scientist Alice Le Gall. "They show that the first few meters below the surface of the area that we investigated, although at a glacial 50-60 K, are much warmer than we had expected."
"This cannot be explained only as a result of the Sun's illumination and, to a lesser extent, Saturn's heating so there must be an additional source of heat."
Source: Ars Technica | Comments (5)