Where do the geysers of the launch moon come from?

The astronomer Rafael Bachiller discovers us in this series the most spectacular phenomena of the cosmos. Threads of palpitant research, astronomical adventur

Where do the geysers of the launch moon come from?

The astronomer Rafael Bachiller discovers us in this series the most spectacular phenomena of the cosmos. Threads of palpitant research, astronomical adventures and scientific novelties on the universe analyzed in depth.

Lunch, a frozen moon from Saturn, has spectacular geysers who throw water into space. It was taken for granted that such geysers came from a deep subsurface ocean, but a new study puts it now on doubt.

Although with only 500 kilometers in diameter (7 times less than that of our Moon), a launching is one of the most interesting bodies of the Solar System. Its surface is of great wealth, with ancient zones full of craters and other younger ground renovated by the tectonic activity. But what is most surprising of this small world are the more than a hundred geysers that, in the area of its south pole, throw water vapor into space.

These jets were discovered by the Cassini spatial probe when the small moon came over in 2005. Since then, it has been found that, in addition to water, such penaches also contain ice particles, common salt crystals, ammonia and even some organic compounds .

Studies of the structure of this Moon, carried out for almost two decades, have revealed that its surface is a thick frozen crust of about 30 to 40 kilometers of thickness, under which a liquid ocean can be hidden between 10 and 30 kilometers deep and, finally, a rocky nucleus.

Lacking geysers seem to arise from a superficial stretch marks called "tiger stripes". So far it was thought that these stretch marks should be geologically similar to the great mountain ranges and areas of subduction of the Earth, where volcanoes are formed.

Therefore, these geysers seemed to be directly connected to the deep subsurface ocean. Frictions due to small earthquakes, or tectonic activity on the surface of the small moon, could melt part of the ice on the surface and create cracks in the form of stretch marks from which the geysers would emerge, transporting the water from the ocean into space.

It is still a mystery how water is maintained in that ocean, and what is the mechanism by which it is relatively tibia. Perhaps the source of energy is in the intense tidal forces due to the gravitational attraction of the Saturn giant.

Be that as it may, this liquid ocean that must be rich in salts, offers conditions that seem very suitable for the emergency of life. Along with the moons of Jupiter Ganímedes and Europe, they also contain large oceans under their surfaces, the launch ocean is one of the most interesting places for the search for extraterrestrial life in our solar system.

So far it was thought that the study of the chemical composition of the geysers would reveal the composition of the ocean to which they seemed to be connected directly, thus being able to offer some clue on the possible existence of life.

Planetary scientists Colin Meyer and Jacob Buffo, Dartmouth College (a private university of New Hampshire, USA), are dedicated to studying and making numerical models to simulate the behavior of the ice and terrestrial polar seas and those of the Frosted moons of the solar system. At a recent meeting of the American Union of Geophysics, a team coordinated by these researchers presented simulations that show the possibility that the ceiling geysers do not arise directly from the ocean, but could be created in muddy water bags on the frost cortex . And the chemical processes that take place on the wet porridge of these puddles may not be the same as those of the liquid ocean much deeper.

This work constitutes therefore a serious warning with a view to the conclusions that can be extracted from the properties of the geysers. It seems now possible that these properties, after all, were not identical to those of the deep ocean of launch. And this is something that will have to be taken into account in the design of the numerous space missions that are under study in different spatial agencies, such as NASA Americana NASA and the European ESA.

The hope that taking samples of the water ejected by the geysers Basse to reveal the chemical composition of the ocean, without having to drill, may not be completely based. If no signs of life were found in the geysers, this would not imply that they could not be in the ocean.

The work of Meyer, Buffo and collaborators entitled "A Mussy Source For The Geysers of Encladus" was presented at a recent congress of the American Union of Geophysics held in New Orleans. The work summary can be consulted in this link.


Rafael Bachiller is Director of the National Astronomical Observatory [https://bit.ly/3gzkald] (National Geographic Institute) and academic of the Royal Academy of Doctors of Spain.

Date Of Update: 07 February 2022, 10:34

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