enceladus moon

Ocean Worlds: The Story of Seas on Earth and Other Planets

So far, every volume signed Jan Zalasiewicz had proved a geological pleasure (as indeed have all the others in the series on Earth Systems Science that OUP have been releasing), and this latest instalment (the second book he’s co written with Mark Williams) did not disappoint my high expectations. While it isn’t an overview of the current state of oceanography, it provides a pleasant and fascinating romp through all things ocean, from the origin of the water in comets, through their role in the great cycles of the elements to the current ecological catastrophe shaping up in the planet’s seas.

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Could We Find Alien Life on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus?
Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus, is one of the most beautiful moons in our solar system, and it may also be the best place to discover extraterrestrial life!

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NASA’s Cassini reveals the full glory of Saturn’s rings

“Composed of 99.9% water-ice, the ring system has thousands of thin gaps, and was thicker and more varied in the past. The once-rocky material has coalesced into moons, but the watery rings will remain for as long as our Solar System exists.”

In the 1600s, the earliest telescopes saw that Saturn had “ears,” while later observers all the way back then finally saw their true nature: a ringed system with complex gaps, bands and colorations throughout. Since then, Saturn’s rings have been a source of wonder and puzzlement to skywatchers everywhere. The only ring system visible through most telescopes from Earth, Saturn’s main rings measure more than 70,000 km long, yet are no more than 1 km in thickness. Once thought to have only two gaps in them, the Cassini spacecraft has revealed over a thousand, teaching us that Saturn’s rings are ancient – likely as old as the planet itself – and will likely continue to exist for as long as our Sun shines.

Go get the full story in a glorious set of pictures from Cassini and no more than 200 words on today’s Mostly Mute Monday!

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Pluto (bottom image) with various other non-planets.

Since everyone has their knickers in a knot over Pluto not being a planet, here are various different celestial objects who are also not classified as planets. You’ll notice, just because it’s not called a “planet” doesn’t mean it isn’t cool.

Let us be reminded, there is no heirarchy of celestial bodies. It wasn’t necessarily “demoted” from planethood, it was simply reclassified as something else. There’s literally no reason to be emotionally attatched to the idea of Pluto’s planetary classifaction.

But what “classifies” a planet anyway?

According to the International Astronomical Union, there are 3 basic requirements that it must meet:
1) It orbits the sun
2) Sufficient mass to assume a “hydrostatic equilibrium” (meaning it’s mostly shaped like a globe)
3) Has “cleared its neighborhood” in its orbit.

The third one is where Pluto fails. What they mean by “clearing the neighborhood” is that the orbital path is good and clear. Every planet will still collide with something now and then but their orbital paths are not occupied by anything that is similar to the size of the planet itself. They’re not really in danger of running into much of anything except maybe an asteroid or a comet that might enter their path and collide.

In addition, here is an image showcasing the dwarf planets of the solar system. Pluto isn’t alone in it’s classification.

So don’t be sad over Pluto not being a planet, you’re just being melodramatic. Wipe your tears away with some scientific literacy. ;)

What’s Enceladus?

Before we tell you about Enceladus, let’s first talk about our Cassini spacecraft…

Our Cassini mission to Saturn is one of the most ambitious efforts in planetary space exploration ever mounted. Cassini is a sophisticated robotic spacecraft orbiting the ringed planet and studying the Saturnian system in detail.

Cassini completed its initial four-year mission to explore the Saturn System in June 2008. It has also completed its first mission extension in September 2010. Now, the health spacecraft is making exciting new discoveries in a second extension mission!

Enceladus

Enceladus is one of Saturn’s many moons, and is one of the brightest objects in our solar system. This moon is about as wide as Arizona, and displays at least five different types of terrain. The surface is believed to be geologically “young”, possibly less than 100 million years old.

Cassini first discovered continually-erupting fountains of icy material on Enceladus in 2005. Since then, the Saturn moon has become one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for present-day habitable environments.  

Scientists found that hydrothermal activity may be occurring on the seafloor of the moon’s underground ocean. In September, it was announced that its ocean –previously thought to only be a regional sea – was global!

Since Cassini is nearing the end of its mission, we are able to make a series of three close encounters with Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons.

Close Encounters

On Oct. 14, Cassini performed a mid-range flyby of Enceladus, but the main event will take place on Oct. 28, when Cassini will come dizzyingly close to the icy moon. During this flyby, the spacecraft will pass a mere 30 miles above the moon’s south polar region!

This will be the deepest-ever dive through the moon’s plume of icy spray, where Cassini can collect images and valuable data about what’s going on beneath the frozen surface.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

Ritual Music for Space Witches

Some spacecraft and telescopes are equipped with sensors that allow them to record radio emissions from various celestial bodies. These recording can make for excellent background “music” for meditation or during rituals. I like to work with the planetary hours and playing the radio emissions from the planet I’m working with is a great way to draw in and harness it’s energy. 

I’ve complied a list of some of these recordings. I’ve only included videos 30 minutes or longer so that you won’t have to restart them mid-ritual.

The Sun

Mercury

Venus

Earth

Mars

Martian sandstorm

Jupiter

Saturn

Saturn’s  rings

Uranus

Neptune

Pluto

The Moon

Enceladus 

Europa

Callisto

Ganymede 

Cosmic background radiation

Short videos:

Pulsar

Quasar 

vimeo

Enceladus is an Icy moon of Saturn that has geysers at its south pole shooting out liquid water from a lake or ocean below, created by heat from tidal interactions between Saturn’s various moons. These geysers were one of the biggest discoveries of the Cassini spacecraft, now in the last year of its life before it is crashed into Saturn to avoid contaminating the surface of any of these moons with life from Earth. The presence of liquid water already shooting into space makes Enceladus one of the best places in this solar system to hunt for extraterrestrial life - this video clip takes you through the basics of a mission concept that would do exactly that.