Enceladus, named after a Greek mythology giant, is the sixth largest moon of the planet Saturn known for its icy surface which makes it the most reflective bodies of the Solar System. It’s not just the icy and the reflective surface that makes it eminent but the hydrothermal vents spewing water vapor and ice particles from an underground ocean beneath the icy crust of Enceladus.
It has an icy, shiny, white and bright surface:
- The temperature is about -201 degrees C ( -300 degrees F) which makes it extremely cold.
- It the brightest object in the solar system as the solid ice surface reflects sunlight like freshly fallen snow.
- It surface also features ranging from old craters to new reformed terrains that formed 100 millions ago.
- The south polar region is almost entirely free of impact craters.
Inner, secretive portion:
- Our Cassini spacecraft’s data revealed that the magnitude of the moon’s very slight wobble as it orbits Saturn can only be mean that the outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior – which means vast ocean must be present.
- The finding implies that the plumes are being fed by this vast liquid water reservoir.
- The measurements shows that a large sea about 6 miles (10 kilometers) is located deep beneath the southern polar region, under an ice shell about 19 to 25 miles (30 to 40 kilometers) thick. Now isn’t that fascinating? There more… Keep reading.
Possible life form:
It has a vast ocean under all the thick icy layer with its unique chemistry and internal heat, scientists think there may be promising life form.
According to the them, the chemical reaction between the water and the rock on this Saturn’s moon could provide enough energy in the water to support microbial life and they have been hoping to find life form since then.
The plumes that comes out of Enceladus’s frosty surface from the vast ocean of salty water contains tiny fragments of minerals suggested that the salts and silica dust in the spray are formed through hot water reaching 90 degree C (194 degree F) interacting with the rocky core.
So, even though the ocean has been only hot/warm for few million years which wouldn’t be enough for life to evolve, there is a possibility for to life to form in later years. The very same way life evolved on Earth after 650 million years.
This shiny, white Saturn’s moon is still young and a recent paper proposed that the Moon was formed only 100 million years ago. Is that enough for life to have formed or how long more does it need for life to form on that environment?
Only time and research can tell.
Source: NASA, space.com, sciencealert.com