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Topic: Hydrothermal Activity

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovers Complex Organics coming from Saturn’s moon Enceladus

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveal complex organic molecules originating from Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus, strengthening the idea that this ocean world hosts conditions suitable for life. Research results show much larger, heavier molecules than ever before.

Powerful hydrothermal vents mix up material from the moon’s water-filled, porous core with water from the moon’s massive subsurface ocean – and it is released into space, in the form of water vapor and ice grains. A team led by Frank Postberg and Nozair Khawaja of the University of Heidelberg, Germany, continues to examine the makeup of the ejected ice and has recently identified fragments of large, complex organic molecules.

A dramatic plume sprays water ice and vapor from the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Cassini's first hint of this plume came during the spacecraft's first close flyby of the icy moon on February 17, 2005. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

A dramatic plume sprays water ice and vapor from the south polar region of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Cassini’s first hint of this plume came during the spacecraft’s first close flyby of the icy moon on February 17, 2005. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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NASA Takes a Deep Dive into the Search for Life

 

Written by Abby Tabor
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationSilicon Valley, CA – Deep space and the deep sea are not as different as you might think. In 2018 and 2019, NASA’s search for life beyond Earth will dive beneath the waves here at home to explore hydrothermal systems of underwater volcanoes.

These special locations could look a lot like what we’ll find on the other ocean worlds in our solar system – prime candidates to potentially support life.

Many projects at NASA study places on Earth that could be analogous to extraterrestrial locations. The project pulling together ocean and space is called SUBSEA, which stands for Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog.

Saturn's moon Enceladus hides an ocean beneath its icy crust. Water interacting with rock on the sea floor could potentially yield chemical reactions that would make microbial metabolism possible. (NASA)

Saturn’s moon Enceladus hides an ocean beneath its icy crust. Water interacting with rock on the sea floor could potentially yield chemical reactions that would make microbial metabolism possible. (NASA)

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New Study using NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft data reveals heat from friction may power Hydrothermal Activity on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Heat from friction could power hydrothermal activity on Saturn’s moon Enceladus for billions of years if the moon has a highly porous core, according to a new modeling study by European and U.S. researchers working on NASA’s Cassini mission.

The study, published today in the journal Nature Astronomy, helps resolve a question scientists have grappled with for a decade: Where does the energy to power the extraordinary geologic activity on Enceladus come from?

This graphic from ESA (the European Space Agency) illustrates how water might be heated inside Saturn's moon Enceladus. (ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPG-CNRS/U. Nantes/U. Angers)

This graphic from ESA (the European Space Agency) illustrates how water might be heated inside Saturn’s moon Enceladus. (ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPG-CNRS/U. Nantes/U. Angers)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data reveals Hydrothermal Conditions for Life may have existed on Mars

 

Written by Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The discovery of evidence for ancient sea-floor hydrothermal deposits on Mars identifies an area on the planet that may offer clues about the origin of life on Earth.

A recent international report examines observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) of massive deposits in a basin on southern Mars. The authors interpret the data as evidence that these deposits were formed by heated water from a volcanically active part of the planet’s crust entering the bottom of a large sea long ago.

This view of a portion of the Eridania region of Mars shows blocks of deep-basin deposits that have been surrounded and partially buried by younger volcanic deposits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This view of a portion of the Eridania region of Mars shows blocks of deep-basin deposits that have been surrounded and partially buried by younger volcanic deposits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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Plunge into Saturn ends NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft’s groundbreaking mission

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A thrilling epoch in the exploration of our solar system came to a close today, as NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made a fateful plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn, ending its 13-year tour of the ringed planet.

“This is the final chapter of an amazing mission, but it’s also a new beginning,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Saturn's active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus sinks behind the giant planet in a farewell portrait from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. This view of Enceladus was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017. It is among the last images Cassini sent back. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Saturn’s active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus sinks behind the giant planet in a farewell portrait from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. This view of Enceladus was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017. It is among the last images Cassini sent back. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft begins plunge into Saturn

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is on final approach to Saturn, following confirmation by mission navigators that it is on course to dive into the planet’s atmosphere on Friday, September 15th, 2017.

Cassini is ending its 13-year tour of the Saturn system with an intentional plunge into the planet to ensure Saturn’s moons – in particular Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity – remain pristine for future exploration.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is shown heading for the gap between Saturn and its rings during one of 22 such dives of the mission's finale in this illustration. The spacecraft will make a final plunge into the planet's atmosphere on Sept. 15. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is shown heading for the gap between Saturn and its rings during one of 22 such dives of the mission’s finale in this illustration. The spacecraft will make a final plunge into the planet’s atmosphere on Sept. 15. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft makes final flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is headed toward its September 15th, 2017 plunge into Saturn, following a final, distant flyby of the planet’s giant moon Titan.

The spacecraft made its closest approach to Titan today at 12:04pm PDT (3:04pm EDT), at an altitude of 73,974 miles (119,049 kilometers) above the moon’s surface. The spacecraft is scheduled to make contact with Earth on September 12th at about 6:19pm PDT (9:19pm EDT).

Cassini made its final, distant flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on Sept. 11, which set the spacecraft on its final dive toward the planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cassini made its final, distant flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan on Sept. 11, which set the spacecraft on its final dive toward the planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft continues dives between Saturn and it’s Rings

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft makes its unprecedented series of weekly dives between Saturn and its rings, scientists are finding — so far — that the planet’s magnetic field has no discernible tilt. This surprising observation, which means the true length of Saturn’s day is still unknown, is just one of several early insights from the final phase of Cassini’s mission, known as the Grand Finale.

Other recent science highlights include promising hints about the structure and composition of the icy rings, along with high-resolution images of the rings and Saturn’s atmosphere.

Recent images of features in Saturn's C ring called "plateaus" reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Recent images of features in Saturn’s C ring called “plateaus” reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini mission and Hubble Space Telescope provides new details about moons Enceladus and Europa

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Two veteran NASA missions are providing new details about icy, ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn, further heightening the scientific interest of these and other “ocean worlds” in our solar system and beyond. The findings are presented in papers published Thursday by researchers with NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and Hubble Space Telescope.

In the papers, Cassini scientists announce that a form of chemical energy that life can feed on appears to exist on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and Hubble researchers report additional evidence of plumes erupting from Jupiter’s moon Europa.

This artist's rendering shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015. New ocean world discoveries from Cassini and Hubble will help inform future exploration and the broader search for life beyond Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015. New ocean world discoveries from Cassini and Hubble will help inform future exploration and the broader search for life beyond Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn inspires people of Earth

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Although the motivation behind NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn was scientific, part of the planet’s allure has long been in its undeniable physical beauty.

Since Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004, dramatic views from the spacecraft’s imaging cameras — and other sensors that observe in infrared, ultraviolet and radio frequencies — have revealed the ringed planet and its moons in unprecedented detail for scientists to study.

Saturn Mosaic by Ian Regan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Ian Regan)

Saturn Mosaic by Ian Regan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Ian Regan)

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