Saturn's Enceladus MOON hides 'great lake' of water - 3 April 2014

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The evidence for an "ocean" of water under the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus appears to be overwhelming. The little world has excited scientists ever since jets of icy material were seen squirting into space from a striped region at its south pole. Now, exquisite measurements using Nasa's Cassini probe as it flew over the moon have allowed researchers to detect the water's gravitational signal. Science magazine reports the details. "The measurements that we have done are consistent with the existence of a large water reservoir about the size (volume) of Lake Superior in North America," Prof Luciano Iess told BBC News. A European comparison would be a few hundred times the water mass of Lake Garda in Italy. The findings of Prof Iess and his team will boost the view that the 500km-wide moon would be one of the best places beyond Earth to go look for the existence of microbial life. Cassini's data suggests the liquid volume lies about 40km under Enceladus's ice crust. This would put it directly on top of the moon's layered, rocky interior. The case for a subglacial ocean has been growing ever since Cassini first sensed a diffuse atmosphere at the moon in 2005. Subsequent observations pinned the source of this atmosphere to mineral-rich streams of water vapour flowing away from surface fractures dubbed "tiger stripes" for their resemblance to the markings on a big cat. Cassini even flew through the plumes to "taste" their load of salts and organic (carbon-rich) molecules. Enceladus's orbit around Saturn is highly eccentric - it is a big ellipse. The giant planet's gravity should therefore be expected to squeeze and stretch the little moon as it travels this path, heating some of its ices and melting them. Some of the resulting liquid could then be hurled into space through the deep tiger fractures, although quite how this happens is not yet fully understood. Nonetheless, the new work reinforces this general picture. It has involved measuring tiny changes in the speed of Cassini as it passed through Enceladus's own gravitational field. These changes in velocity were as small as 20 millionths of a metre per second. They enabled Prof Iess and colleagues to map variations in the distribution of mass on the moon. The large anomaly they spotted in the data at the southern pole is best explained by the presence of a big volume of water. TAGS: abc breaking news, bbc, bbc football, bbc iplayer, bbc news, bbc news america, bbc persian, bbc sport, bbc weather, bbc world news, breaking celebrity news, breaking election news, breaking late news, breaking local news, breaking music news, breaking news, breaking news alerts, breaking news canada, breaking news headlines, breaking news in atlanta, breaking news in nigeria, breaking news india, breaking news pensacola florida, breaking news plane crash, breaking news story, breaking sports news, business expensive news home media world, christian world news, cnn, cnn breaking news, cnn money, cnn news, cnn news breaking news, cnn news world, detroit breaking news, global news, headline, headline news, health care technology news, hot latest global news, internet technology news, las vegas breaking news, latest breaking news, latest celebrity news, latest information technology news, latest music news, latest news, latest news headlines, latest news update, latest sports news, live breaking news, local breaking news, local news today, msn breaking news, nbc breaking news, nbc world news, news of the world, news report us world, news today news, news updated daily, solar technology news, sports news today, technology news, the latest news, today news, us news and world, us news and world report, us news and world report magazine, us news and world report web site, us news world report, world news, world news daily, world news headlines

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