Enceladu's gas fountains were sometimes 20 times more dense than expected. For Cassini's instruments, this produced less light from the star zeta Orionis. (c) NASA / JPL / University of Colorado
At the South Pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus, a mixture of water vapor, methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and complex organic compounds escapes into space. This is shown by a first analysis of the mass spectrometer data from the Cassini spacecraft, which approached the South Pole of the Moon on March 12, reaching 48 kilometers. The composition of the organic Gebräus resemble the tail of a comet, the space agencies Nasa and Esa announced now. "It's completely unexpected that the chemistry of Enceladus? that which comes from within? a comet, "says Hunter Waite, project manager for the mass spectrometer at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "This raises all sorts of questions about the formation of the Saturn system." Comets are considered the most primitive members of the solar system because they have barely warmed since its formation 4.5 billion years ago. Perhaps some of them contain almost unchanged building material from the Solar Nebula.

Enceladus is likely to have a completely different genesis: Although it consists mainly of ice. However, the building material clenched under the action of its own gravity into a ball together and probably warmed up.

Even today, there is a heat source inside Enceladus. The Cassini data show that the parallel "tiger stripes" at the south pole of the moon are warm to minus 93 degrees Celsius, almost a hundred degrees warmer than the rest of the surface. The "tiger stripes" are fissures 150 kilometers long, from which the gases swell. On the new recordings of the Cassini infrared spectrometer the stripes are visible in high resolution. At the same time, the flyby has shown that there are four separate sources of Enceladus' gas plume that unite at a greater distance from a single cloud.

The new measurements show that there are some of the ingredients needed to create life on Saturn's moon: "Enceladus has heat, water and organic chemicals, " says Dennis Matson of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "What's missing from the recipe of life is the detection of liquid water." However, the elixir of life could be closer to the surface than previously thought, believes John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado, "The surprisingly high temperatures indicate that there are liquid water at not too great depths. "Display

Message from NASA / ESA Ute Kehse

© science.de

Recommended Editor'S Choice