NASA's Cassini Probe Dives Through Icy Plume Of Saturn’s Moon Enceladus

Posted: Oct 29 2015, 7:37am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News


NASA's Cassini Probe Dives Through Icy Plume of Saturn’s Moon Enceladus
NASA's Cassini spacecraft completed its deepest-ever dive through the icy plume of Enceladus on Oct. 28, 2015. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
  • Cassini Flyby Probe spots Saturn’s Icy Moon Enceladus

The Cassini flyby probe spotted Saturn’s icy moon which goes by the name of Enceladus.

NASA’s Cassini probe passed by the moon of Saturn. Enceladus was an icy world that had water spouting forth from its southern polar region. Just 50 km above the moon’s surface, the Cassini probe literally tested the chemistry of the water.

"NASA's Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its close flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus today, passing 30 miles (49 kilometers) above the moon's south polar region at approximately 8:22 a.m. PDT (11:22 a.m. EDT). Mission controllers established two-way communication with the spacecraft this afternoon and expect it to begin transmitting data from the encounter this evening. Images are anticipated in the next 24 to 48 hours.," NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

Enceladus may prove to be a world unto itself. There may even be signs of alien life on it. Right below its icy crust lies a virtual ocean of water. What the scientists are hoping to find are microbes that may have survived in the depths of the ocean. 

There are those who say it is not just a crust with an ocean beneath it. It might actually harbor life forms that we cannot even dream of. The probe will delve deep into the spouting waters off the south pole and collect certain samples from there.

A detector will gauge whether there is any molecular hydrogen in the mix or not. If it is then hot springs lie on the ocean floor. Whether the moon is a habitat of sorts or a barren world is a question that will get answered thanks to this probe’s activities. 

Vents of the sort that probably exist within the surface structure of Enceladus are a sure sign of life forms that proliferate. They are an ecosystem of sorts that engenders various microbial organisms.

The water is being taken up into the soil and then reintroduced into the air with a rich deposit of minerals in its material base. There are indeed real chances of finding bacteria in this milieu. But whether or not there are bacteria on Enceladus is just a speculative fantasy for now. 

The hydrothermal vents release hydrogen which is a sign of energy changes occuring within the substructure. The flyby took place on Wednesday. Results will start coming in but it will be weeks before we can have full access to them.

Within seven days a synopsis of the chemical analysis of Enceladus’s elements will be forthcoming. By the time a month has elapsed, the detailed picture will emerge too. The Cassini probe is on the last leg of its tour of Saturn.

The most recent flyby near Enceladus is the closest one to have ever taken place in our history. Previous missions have identified various salts and organic compounds among the chemical soup on the moon’s surface. What the current mission will discover remains to be seen.  

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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