The water plume, coming from the south pole of Enceladus, rushes out at a rate of 79 gallons per second so fast that in a couple of hours, an Olympic-sized swimming pool would be filled. As the water spreads into space, it creates what is known as the E ring of Saturn. Enceladus’ orbit around Saturn takes about 33 hours, and as Enceladus turns around the planet, the water coming off the moon leaves what appears as a halo.
This is not the first time astronomers have seen water plumes coming from Enceladus; however, it is the largest. The plume is “20 times the size” of Enceladus, according to scientist Geronimo Villanueva who works in Greenbelt, Maryland, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Enceladus, one of 124 moons circling Saturn, is about as wide as the state of Arizona. It has the most reflective surface in the solar system because it is covered by a layer of ice which is about 12 miles deep.
Enceladus is interesting to scientists because it is one of the few places in the solar system besides Earth that has liquid water. Energy for any alien life on the moon could be coming from deep-sea vents in its subsurface ocean, using chemosynthesis rather than photosynthesis, in the same way some deep-sea organisms do on Earth.
In December, researchers found that the ocean on Enceladus contains phosphorus. Researchers had previously known about carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur, all essential for life.
First surveyed in 1980 by NASA’s Voyager 1, Enceladus was not found to be interesting beyond its icy surface. The Cassini space probe brought new focus to the moon when it discovered evidence of the subsurface ocean on Enceladus as well as sampled water from the plumes. The Cassini space probe studied Saturn and its moons for more than a decade, ending its mission in 2017.
Copyright 2023, UnitedHeadlines.com