Magazine article Science News

Saturn Moon May Sport Seltzer Sea: Fizzy Ocean Could Be Source of Eruptions on Enceladus

Magazine article Science News

Saturn Moon May Sport Seltzer Sea: Fizzy Ocean Could Be Source of Eruptions on Enceladus

Article excerpt

Eau my! Things could be really popping on Saturn's moon Enceladus. A fizzy ocean, similar in carbonation to Perrier, may feed the plumes of water vapor, gas and ice that erupt from the moon, a new model suggests.

Since 2005, when the Cassini spacecraft first observed icy plumes spewing from the south pole of Enceladus (SN: 5/6/06, p. 282), researchers have speculated that an ocean may lie buried tens of kilometers beneath the moon's fractured, icy surface. Now Cassini scientist Dennis Matson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and his colleagues propose adding a bit of effervescence to that watery hypothesis. A bubbly ocean containing 1 or 2 percent dissolved carbon dioxide and other gases could supply water, gas, dust and heat to Enceladus' polar plumes, Matson reported October 5. Carbonation could also explain why some of the ice grains expelled by the plumes carry sodium and potassium salts. …

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