Astronomers have caught a huge plume of water vapor coming into space from Enceladus, an icy moon of Saturn. This moon, which is 504 km wide, is known for it GeysersThat is, by pumping boiling water, which is expelled strongly in the form of columns. But the last discovery is significant because of its dimensions: The water column reaches an extension of 9,600 kmwhich is equivalent to the distance between the United Kingdom and Japan.
Scientists are excited about this discovery because they realize that Enceladus’ subterranean ocean, which generates plumes of steam, It can satisfy the basic conditions to allow life to exist.
NASA’s Cassini mission (2004-2017) collected possible chemical evidence of life on hot springs He did not detect living organisms directly.
The new mass of water vapor was recorded by James Webb Space Telescope. In previous observations, vapor emissions extending hundreds of kilometers were detected, but this geyser is of a higher dimension.
The European Space Agency (ESA) calculated that The water flows at a speed of about 300 liters per second. That would be enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in just a few hours, according to the European Space Agency.
Thanks to the Webb telescope, the characteristics of the water column were recorded near infrared spectrometer (NIRSpec). This instrument shows how much expelled vapor (about 30%) feeds into a frame-shaped surface of water, called the torus, located next to the E ring.
“The temperature on Enceladus is minus 200 degrees Celsius.Catherine Heymans, professor of astrophysics and astronomer Royal Scotland, told the BBC. “But we think it’s hot enough in the core of the moon to heat the water, which creates this mass of steam.”
“We’ve verified that deep in our ocean, on planet Earth, life can exist in these kinds of conditions. That’s why we’re excited to see these large lumps of steam on Enceladus. They help us understand what’s going on there, What are the chances of having life?Heymans points out, though he makes it clear that they do not refer to humans but Bacteria are like those found in the deep sea.
Scientists proposed a NASA mission called Enceladus Orbilander that will seek to solve the open question about life.
a The mission that will orbit this moon to sample geysers, Like the Cassini probe, but now with more advanced technology. In addition to taking surface material samples.
If you can pass the mission, then Orbilander will not fly for several decades, Because there are other priorities. NASA and the European Space Agency sent space probes to moons of Jupiter The ice is covered. These bodies also contain deep oceans. In fact, they may be better candidates in the search for extraterrestrial life because they are so much larger in size.
It is not known, for example, How long did Enceladus keep water in a liquid state?. This is the key to life being in existence. The moon may have been frozen over for most of the solar system’s history, which could reduce the chances of life.
By contrast, Jupiter’s largest moons, such as Europa (3,121 km in diameter) and Ganymede (5,268 km), may have had The heat energy required to maintain water in a liquid state longer.
Nature Astronomy a Detailed report on Enceladus observations Made by Webb.
By Jonathan Amos
BBC News World