Extraterrestrial Ocean

SCIENCE

A substantial ocean most likely exists beneath the icy surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, raising the possibility that extraterrestrial life exists in its briny depths. (National Geographic News)

Use our resources to understand how astrobiologists are looking for life on Enceladus and elsewhere.

This diagram illustrates the possible interior of Saturn's moon Enceladus based on a gravity investigation by NASA's Cassini spacecraft and NASA's Deep Space Network. This cutaway view shows the moon's rocky core, icy exterior and liquid water ocean. Illustration courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

This diagram illustrates the possible interior of Saturn’s moon Enceladus based on a gravity investigation by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft and NASA’s Deep Space Network. This cutaway view shows the moon’s rocky core, icy exterior and liquid water ocean.
Illustration courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

These are the amazing photographs (this single image is actually a mosaic of two shots) that inspired scientists to investigate Enceladus. The jets streaming into the space are eruptions of salty water. The jets, eruptions of what scientists call "cryovolcanoes," would have a temperature of -3 C to -116 C (27 F to -177 F, or 270 to 157 Kelvin). Image courtesy NASA/JPL/SSI

These are the amazing photographs (this single image is actually a mosaic of two shots) that inspired scientists to investigate Enceladus. The jets streaming into space are eruptions of salty water. The jets, eruptions of what scientists call “cryovolcanoes,” would have a temperature of -3 C to -116 C (27 F to -177 F, or 270 to 157 Kelvin).
Image courtesy NASA/JPL/SSI

Discussion Ideas

 

  • What Earthly ecosystems are astrobiologists studying to better understand how life may exist on Enceladus? Take a look at the illustration below, then read through our article “Looking for Life,” about the work of astrobiologist Kevin Hand, for some help.
This illustration depicts two possible cut-away views through the icy shell of Jupiter's moon Europa. (Europa, like Enceladus, also conceals a liquid ocean.) In both views, heat escapes, possibly volcanically, from Europa's rocky mantle and is carried upward by buoyant oceanic currents.  Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Michael Carroll

This illustration depicts two possible cut-away views through the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa. (Europa, like Enceladus, also conceals a liquid ocean.) In both views, heat escapes, possibly volcanically, from Europa’s rocky mantle and is carried upward by buoyant oceanic currents.
Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Michael Carroll

If life exists outside our planet, there's a good chance it looks like this.  Image courtesy University of Washington/NOAA

If life exists outside our planet, there’s a good chance it looks like this.
Image courtesy University of Washington/NOAA

One response to “Extraterrestrial Ocean

  1. Pingback: 200 Top Scientists Meet :: Extraterrestrial Universe·

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