Scientists have released a new study in which they claim that the oceans of Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth largest natural satellite, located 20 kilometers below the outer layer, may be as active as those on Earth – contrary to previous assumptions.
They have been eyeing the object since 2014, the year in which the Cassini-Huygens space mission recorded dozens of geysers ejecting materials through cracks in the ice deposited on its surface.
Based on the shape of what can be visualized, the researchers explain, and with new assessments, there is a possibility to analyze how hospitable the environment in question and others similar to microbes are.
“Understanding [such aspects] may, one day, assist efforts to search for signs of life,” argues Andrew Thompson, professor of environmental science and engineering at the California Institute of Technology, co-author of the article published in Nature Geoscience.
Also according to the team, salt levels may vary by region, which would have the potential to alter the patterns of water circulation – something equivalent to what oceanographers see in the areas surrounding Antarctica.
In turn, other Cassini measurements – such as gravitational and heat – showed that the ice sheet tends to be thinner at the satellite’s poles than at the equator, suggesting melting and freezing of elements.
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Melting and freezing, suppose those responsible for the theory, would affect ocean currents in Enceladus, because salt water that solidifies tends to release its salt, causing the surrounding liquid to become heavier and sink. Melting would have the opposite effect, diluting the salt and reducing the density. In any case, it is not just these terrestrial knowledge that are applied to hypotheses.
For example, the areas in which the aforementioned activities occur (in theory) would be connected to each other by currents just as they do in Antarctic oceans, forming a pattern of circulation at the equator that could move heat and nutrients around the small moon which is approximately 500 kilometers in diameter.
Differences, however, have not been ruled out. Our planet’s ocean is, on average, 3.6 kilometers deep, while the ocean there is approximately eight times less shallow.
In addition, in the absence of a powerful sun that heats them more on the surface, the waters of Enceladus are probably warmer in the depths, due to the heat of the territory’s core.
Unfortunately, with the end of Cassini in 2017, such detailed data is unlikely to come up anytime soon, at least until another mission offers revelations as big as those that reached Andrew and his team.
They are left with telescopes – and the expectation that the devices will bring hot news about the 7 seas of worlds spread across the Universe.