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CosmosUp | May 25, 2019

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Top 7 Extreme Oceans Beyond Earth

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Enceladus’s Underground Ocean That Could Host Life


Across the southern polar region of Saturn’s sixth-largest moon lie four “tiger stripes,” depressions in the surface that are rife with cryovolcanic activity. The cryovolcanoes spray roughly 250 kilograms (551 lb) of water vapor every second.

Most of it falls back to the moon’s surface, but some escapes into Saturn’s outer E Ring. Analysis of the E Ring found sodium salts within the ice grains, exactly the kind of salts you would find from an ocean, initially sparking the idea that a salty underground ocean may lie beneath the surface.During the flyby missions in 2012, Cassini confirmed the presence of an ocean by detecting the water’s gravitational signal.

Scientists were able to determine that there is an ocean of liquid water beneath the surface, and its volume is roughly equal to Lake Superior’s.

Though it hasn’t been confirmed whether this is a global underwater ocean or not, it is certainly at its thickest beneath Enceladus’s south pole. Not only is Enceladus’s underground ocean made of liquid water, but it is also one that contains organic compounds (sodium salts), meaning that the core ingredients for life to exist are all there, making this little Saturnian moon a key contender for extraterrestrial life in our solar system.

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