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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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  • I thought the "tasting" was a bust...

    http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/03/14/1535236 [slashdot.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      I thought the "tasting" was a bust...

      Only one instrument had problems. The others worked.
           
  • Does someone want to tell me what definition of "organic" they are using, which can be found in comets and moon geysers?
    • Re:Organic? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @07:42PM (#22888162) Homepage
      Does someone want to tell me what definition of "organic" they are using, which can be found in comets and moon geysers?

      "Compounds containing carbon".

      That's all it means, really. Methane is a common one.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        or to be more precise by citing wikipedia:

        Organic chemistry is a specific discipline within chemistry which involves the scientific study of the structure, properties, composition, reactions, and preparation (by synthesis or by other means) of chemical compounds consisting primarily of carbon and hydrogen, which may contain any number of other elements, including nitrogen, oxygen, the halogens as well as phosphorus, silicon and sulfur.
        • Re:Organic? (Score:4, Informative)

          by wizardforce (1005805) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @07:51PM (#22888260) Journal
          it should be noted however that otherwise "organic" compounds containing boron or silicon are often not characterized as being organic, usually they are referred to as being part of organometallic chemistry. th is even though boron and silicon are not strictly metallic, they are in fact semiconductors.
      • by $0.02 (618911)
        Is CO2 organic?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Urkki (668283)
          Nope. You need both carbon and hydrogen, and CO2 has no H. I believe the simplest organic molecule is methane, CH4. It's also hydrocarbon, which means it contains only carbon and hydrogen. Alternatively formaldehyde, CH2O, could be considered simplest, depending on how you define "simple". Then you get more complex stuff by adding more carbon (and hydrogen as much as that new carbon needs), and by adding other elements, like replacing an H in a hydrocarbon with an OH gives alcohols, most importantly from C2
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by at0mjack (953726)

            Just to be picky, you don't actually need hydrogen. I reckon most chemists would count hexafluorobenzene as organic. Even with just carbon and oxygen, benzene-1,2,3,4,5,6-hexacarboxylic acid trianhydride (C12O9) would be classed as organic.

            A better definition might be, "Contains carbon, does not contain metals (inc. semimetals)", with carbon dioxide and carbonate excluded for historical reasons" :).

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

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @07:46PM (#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.
    • by orionop (1139819)
      Organic molecules are typically defined as any carbon compound that is not CO2.
      Things such as methane (CH4) are organic molecules.
    • Does someone want to tell me what definition of "organic" they are using, which can be found in comets and moon geysers?

      aliens!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hatta (162192)
      They were produced without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or unnatural additives of any kind.
    • In real-world terms: The spacecraft smelt a small fart. Followed the fart and tasted the shit poo accompanying it and Lo! here we have news.
  • by spacefiddle (620205) <{spacefiddle} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday March 27, 2008 @07:44PM (#22888182) Homepage Journal
    > "Enceladus' brew is like carbonated water with an essence of natural gas," said Waite.

    Gawd, i knew it. The primordial hell-brew of the universe is Mountain Dew.
  • "its life Jim but not as we know it"
  • by netsavior (627338) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @07:51PM (#22888270)
    Whether they find life there or not, I think Jupiter should be considered an enemy planet
  • by wwmedia (950346) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @07:56PM (#22888326)
    if they spin it the right way, that they literally found moons made of petrochemicals in the outer solar system their budget would triple overnight ;)
    • if they spin it the right way, that they literally found moons made of petrochemicals in the outer solar system their budget would triple overnight ;)

      Yeah thats an old joke. There is so much methane in the solar system that the real question is where would you find enough oxygen to be able to burn it?

      Its right there, free for the taking, but too expensive to extract and transport.

    • by lusiphur69 (455824) on Friday March 28, 2008 @02:18AM (#22890798) Homepage
      In other news, the oil industry announced a 100-billion dollar research grant into carbon nanotubes.

      Oli G. Archy, head of Chevron says "We believe a giant straw-like tube would significantly advance our knowledge of the known universe and help our neighbours in the solar system acheive democracy."
  • What interests me... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday March 27, 2008 @08:00PM (#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.

  • Doesn't the word organic mean something living (or at one point was living)? Or are we talking about organic compounds?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by junner518 (1235322)
      According to wiktionary, both definitions are correct. As for this article, they are referring to carbon based material. Or so we hope.
      • by SBrach (1073190)
        Why do we hope that?
        • Well I think this should be a much bigger deal if biological material was found on another moon. I would hope a story like that would make mainstream news and not just a tech/science oriented site.
          • by SBrach (1073190)
            I misunderstood you to mean that hopefully it was not organic as in living.
            • Clearly you understood me perfectly. I would hope a bigger deal would have been made if "organic as in living" material was found on a moon of Saturn.
      • by Belial6 (794905)
        No, what they mean is that no man made pesticides have been used on the moon.
    • where it just means "containing carbon". This is very confusing for the average USA Today reader who thinks that organic == life.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This is very confusing for the average USA Today reader who thinks that organic == life
        Honestly, I don't think the average USA Today reader would make it past ==.
    • by mh1997 (1065630)

      Doesn't the word organic mean something living (or at one point was living)? Or are we talking about organic compounds?
      And why are we spending so much money on organic enchaladas? At Taco Bell, they're like a buck.
  • NASA's Cassini spacecraft tasted and sampled a surprising organic brew erupting in geyser-like fashion from Saturn's moon Enceladus during a close flyby on March 12. Scientists are amazed that this tiny moon is so active, "hot" and brimming with water vapor and organic chemicals.

    I hereby propose that Enceladus be renamed Tubgirlus in light of this discovery.

  • Enchiladas
  • you get your significant other to taste a little organic matter right here on Earth.
  • Lets play god (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WarJolt (990309) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @08:49PM (#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?
    • by Stoutlimb (143245)
      That could show evidence for both, depending on how well the new life forms compete with the ones that are already there.
    • 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?

      Well, we'd at least get the answer sooner than when the SPORE game gets finally released.
    • by genner (694963)
      Niether the inhabitants would call it the theory semu-intelligent design and would believe a superior race of morons was responsible for their existance.
  • chicken.
  • Evidently the engine of the chariot of the god Saturn failed and now he cannot get to Enceladus to refuel.
  • I'm a little wary of letting passing spacecraft come by and "taste" the atmospheres of our moons. Once these evil robot satellites get a taste of organic material they're going to want more, more, more... and when they're finished devouring the atmospheres of their home worlds in the outer solar system they'll come back to Earth to sap our precious bodily fluids!
    • by Sonri (900181)
      Mod parent as funny, please. This was the first thing that came to mind when I read the headline.
  • Homer Simpson: Mmmmm, encheladus.

Prediction is very difficult, especially of the future. - Niels Bohr

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