Monday, March 31, 2008

Organic Compounds Found on Saturn's Moon

Livescience has another report from the team working on the Cassini mission examining the planet Saturn and its system of moons. The moon Enceladus has been of particular interest after it was discovered to be erupting geysers of water into space, generated by the intense tidal forces being exerted on it by its parent planet. The probe's orbit allowed a sample to be taken recently, which found the presence of several organic compounds.

"Scientists have been intrigued by the moon since the fountain of water was first spotted in 2005. Now they've identified a soup of prebiotic material there, similar to what's found in comets, from an analysis of data collected by the Cassini spacecraft. Nobody really knows how life began, but astrobiologists guess it required chemicals like those tasted by Cassini, a little liquid water and some unknown spark."

In addition, a new heat imaging shows the southern polar region of the moon much warmer than anticipated. This raises the possibility that liquid water may exist in that region of the moon. In addition to water, the geysers contain carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and organic compounds such as methane, propane, acetylene and formeldehyde.

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