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Space NASA Robotics Science

Cassini 'Tastes' Organic Material at Enceladus 70

Posted by Zonk
from the why-does-saturn's-icy-moon-taste-like-ecto-cooler-hi-c dept.
Riding with Robots writes "As previously reported, the robotic spacecraft Cassini recently flew through the mysterious geyser plumes at Saturn's icy moon Enceladus. Today, NASA released the preliminary results of the flyby, including some intriguing findings, such as organic materials 20 times denser than expected and relatively high temperatures along the fissures where the geysers emanate. 'These spectacular new data will really help us understand what powers the geysers. The surprisingly high temperatures make it more likely that there's liquid water not far below the surface,' said one mission scientist."
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Cassini 'Tastes' Organic Material at Enceladus

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  • Re:Organic? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @06:46PM (#22888204) Journal
    traditionally organic meant that it was produced by life and not synthetic- then we figured out how to synthesize a lot of these chemicals and now it pretty much means contains carbon and usually hydrogen. carbon dioxide for example contains carbon but isn't considered organic and neither is pure carbon. water is a vital component of life as we know it and is almost always associated with organic compounds at least in vivo although it too is not considered organic because it doesn't contain carbon, it does however contain hydrogen and oxygen which are very common in organic compounds.
  • What interests me... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Thursday March 27, 2008 @07:00PM (#22888366) Homepage Journal
    ...is that Enceladus has a chemical makeup far and away closer to a comet than to a Saturnian body, but cannot be a captured comet. The speculation I've read suggests it may have been bombarded by so many comets that the overall chemistry may have changed, but we've a name for objects like that -- dust. Being smashed into by objects that must have been many times the mass of the original moon, for there to have been a significant effect, would have reduced the proto-Enceladus into puree-of-moon.

    I'm wondering if that, in fact, happened - that there was one almighty pulverization and the modern Enceladus is the result of the lighter material condensing around a surviving fragment of sufficient size to act as a nucleus. In that case, though, there should be another moon formed from the heavier material condensing around another fragment, showing an abnormally high density, in much the same way that the Earth and its moon unevenly divide the material of the original planet.

    So far, I've not seen anything that suggests that is the case, but since so little is actually known, I guess it's well within the realms of possible at this point.

  • Lets play god (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WarJolt (990309) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @07:49PM (#22888790)
    Organic material, eh... We should seed the planet with microbes, come back in a million years and see what evolves there. Would that prove evolution or the god theory?

"There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know yet." -Ambrose Bierce

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