Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















SATURN DAILY
An Ice World...With an Ocean
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Feb 22, 2017


Illustration showing the bending of Saturn's magnetic field near Enceladus that was detected by Cassini's magnetometer. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. For a larger version of this image please go here.

On Feb. 17, 2005, NASA's Cassini spacecraft was making the first-ever close pass over Saturn's moon Enceladus as it worked through its detailed survey of the planet's icy satellites. Exciting, to be sure, just for the thrill of exploration. But then Cassini's magnetometer instrument noticed something odd. Since NASA's two Voyager spacecraft made their distant flybys of Enceladus about 20 years prior, scientists had anticipated the little moon would be an interesting place to visit with Cassini.

Enceladus is bright white - the most reflective object in the solar system, in fact - and it orbits in the middle of a faint ring of dust-sized ice particles known as Saturn's E ring. Scientists speculated ice dust was being kicked off its surface somehow. But they presumed it would be, essentially, a dead, airless ball of ice.

What Cassini saw didn't look like a frozen, airless body. Instead, it looked something like a comet that was actively emitting gas. The magnetometer detected that Saturn's magnetic field, which envelops Enceladus, was perturbed above the moon's south pole in a way that didn't make sense for an inactive world. Could it be that the moon was actively replenishing gases it was breathing into space?

Thus began a hunt for clues that has turned out to be Cassini's most riveting detective story.

"Enceladus was so exciting that, instead of just three close flybys planned for our four-year primary mission, we added 20 more, including seven that went right through the geysers at the south pole," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

By following the trail of scientific breadcrumbs, Cassini eventually found that Enceladus harbors a global ocean of salty water under its icy crust, possibly with hydrothermal vents on its seafloor.

The trail of clues that began with a puzzling magnetometer reading led to an understanding that the moon - and perhaps many small, icy moons like it throughout the cosmos - could potentially have the ingredients needed for life.

"Half the excitement of doing science is that you sometimes find yourself going in a totally different direction than you expected, which can lead to amazing discoveries," said Spilker. "That little anomaly in Cassini's magnetometer signal was unusual enough that it eventually led us to an ocean world."

For a timeline of Cassini's Enceladus discoveries, visit here.

Launched in 1997, the Cassini mission is currently in its final year of operations, performing weekly ring-grazing dives just past the outer edge of Saturn's rings. In April, the spacecraft will begin its Grand Finale, plunging through the gap between the rings and the planet itself, leading up to a final plunge into Saturn on September 15.

Cassini has been touring the Saturn system since arriving in 2004 for an up-close study of the planet, its rings and moons, and its vast magnetosphere. Cassini has made numerous dramatic discoveries, besides the activity at Enceladus, including liquid methane seas on another moon, Titan.

SATURN DAILY
Close views show Saturn's Rings in unprecedented detail
Pasadena CA (JPL) Jan 31, 2017
Newly released images showcase the incredible closeness with which NASA's Cassini spacecraft, now in its "Ring-Grazing" orbits phase, is observing Saturn's dazzling rings of icy debris. The views are some of the closest-ever images of the outer parts of the main rings, giving scientists an eagerly awaited opportunity to observe features with names like "straw" and "propellers." Altho ... read more

Related Links
Cassini at NASA
Explore The Ring World of Saturn and her moons
Jupiter and its Moons
The million outer planets of a star called Sol
News Flash at Mercury

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment on this article using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

SATURN DAILY
Russia to carry out tourist flights around Moon by 2022

Study: People don't want their future revealed

NASA selects proposals for first-ever Space Technology Research Institutes

NASA saves energy and water with new modular supercomputing facility

SATURN DAILY
Russian Aviation Company S7 Group restructures

Russia successfully launches space freighter after crash

Energia to make 2 modifications of Federatsiya spaceship

SpaceX cargo ship arrives at space station

SATURN DAILY
Opportunity leaving crater rim for the Plains of Meridiani

NASA mulls putting astronauts on deep space test flight

Scientists say Mars valley was flooded with water not long ago

Researchers pinpoint watery past on Mars

SATURN DAILY
China to launch first high-throughput communications satellite in April

Chinese cargo spacecraft set for liftoff in April

China looks to Mars, Jupiter exploration

China's first cargo spacecraft to leave factory

SATURN DAILY
ESA affirms Open Access policy for images, videos and data

Iridium Announces Target Date for Second Launch of Iridium NEXT

Italy, Russia working closely on Mars exploration, Earth monitoring satellites

NASA seeks partnerships with US companies to advance commercial space technologies

SATURN DAILY
Penn researchers are among the first to grow a versatile 2-dimensional material

Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

Breakthrough in 'wonder' materials paves way for flexible tech

When ultrafast laser pulse meets magnetic materials

SATURN DAILY
Does Pluto Have The Ingredients For Life?

Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars

From Rocks, Evidence of a 'Chaotic Solar System'

Ultracool Dwarf and the Seven Planets

SATURN DAILY
Europa Flyby Mission Moves into Design Phase

Juno to remain in current orbit at Jupiter

NASA receives science report on Europa lander concept

New Horizons Refines Course for Next Flyby




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement