Earth is the ultimate ocean planet (that we know of), but it turns out that our solar system has water in some surprising places, with five ocean-bearing moons and potentially several more worlds with their own oceans.
There are signs that Mars and Venus once had oceans, but something catastrophic may have wiped them out. Earth’s natural force field – our magnetosphere – acts like shield against the erosive force of the solar wind.
3. Earth, the Original Ocean World
The search for life beyond Earth relies, in large part, on understanding our home planet. Among the newest Earth ocean explorers us the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System, or CYGNSS–a constellation of microsatellites that will make detailed measurements of wind speeds over Earth’s oceans to help understand hurricanes. The spacecraft have moved into their science operations phase.
Scientists expected Saturn’s moon Enceladus to be a tiny, solid chunk of ice and rock. But, not long after arriving at Saturn, our Cassini spacecraft made a series of incremental discoveries, eventually confirming that a global subsurface ocean is venting into space, with signs of hydrothermal activity.
6. Why Ocean Worlds Matter
“The question of whether or not life exists beyond Earth, the question of whether or not biology works beyond our home planet, is one of humanity’s oldest and yet unanswered questions. And for the first time in the history of humanity, we have the tools and technology and capability to potentially answer this question. And, we know where to go to find it. Jupiter’s ocean world Europa.” - Kevin Hand, NASA Astrobiologist
7. More Alien Oceans
Scientists think Jupiter’s giant moons Ganymede and Callisto also hide oceans beneath their surfaces. Elsewhere in the solar system, scientists hope to look for hidden oceans on far-flung worlds from Ceres in the main asteroid belt to Pluto in the Kuiper Belt.
Saturn’s moon Titan not only has liquid hydrocarbon seas on its surface. It also shows signs of a global, subsurface saltwater ocean–making the giant moon a place to possibly look for life as we know it and life as we don’t know it … yet.
We invite everyone to help us celebrate Earth Day 2017 by virtually adopting a piece of Earth as seen from space. Your personalized adoption certificate will feature data from our Earth-observing satellites for a randomly assigned location, much of it ocean (it is 70 percent of the Earth’s surface after all!). Print it and share it, then explore other locations with our interactive map and get even more Earth science data from NASA’s Worldview website.
I might always love you. There might always be this piece at the bottom of my heart that the rain never stops trying to weigh down. That I can’t cut out. That I can’t feed to the ocean, no matter how much poetic sense it makes. So I take my body down to the river, and I float up towards the sky. In this story, I’m the dead fish. There is no heaven. There’s just this bright light. And my head like fog. What’s left of my heart looks like a cherry pit. Discarded on the sidewalk. You’re side-stepping around it. You are backlit by headlights. I am banshee screaming. The bright light is swallowing you whole. I know there’s a poem here, but I can’t see it.