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How Salty is Enceladus’ Ocean Under the ice?

30 Apr 2021, 23:25 UTC
How Salty is Enceladus’ Ocean Under the ice?
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An icy satellite of Saturn, Enceladus, has been a subject of increasing interest in recent years since Cassini captured jets of water and other material being ejected out of the south pole of the moon. One particularly tantalizing hypothesis supported by the sample composition is that there might be life in the oceans under the ice shells of Enceladus. To evaluate Enceladus’ habitability and to figure out the best way to probe this icy moon, scientists need to better understand the chemical composition and dynamics of Enceladus’ ocean.

Specifically, an appropriate salinity could be important for habitability. Like the porridge of the Three Bears, the salt level of the water must be just right for life to thrive. Too high a salinity could be threatening to life, and too low a salinity may indicate a weak water-rock reaction, limiting the amount of energy available to life. If life does exist, ocean circulation, which is also indirectly dependent on salinity, will determine where the heat, nutrient and potential biosignatures are transported to, and therefore is the key to the detection of biosignatures.

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