Friday, 14 April 2017 01:43

NASA set to reveal new data on 'ocean worlds' in our solar system


This enhanced-colour Cassini view of Enceladus features the bluish "tiger stripe" fractures on the small moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

NASA plans to announce new findings Thursday based on its research into ocean worlds in our solar system.

Though Earth is known for having the most abundant water in our neighbourhood, recent research has found that some moons could contain their own oceans, hidden beneath their icy crusts.

Enceladus is one such moon. The small, icy world in orbit around Saturn is believed to have an ocean of water beneath its icy crust.

Images from Cassini, the NASA spacecraft that's been in orbit around Saturn since 2004, have captured plumes of water vapour spewing into space. When the spacecraft flew through the plumes, it detected organic material, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

Enceladus's water vapour jets
Enceladus's water vapour jets, emitted from the southern polar region. (Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech and Space Science Institute)

Another world with an ocean is one of Jupiter's moons, Europa. In September, NASA spotted plumes of water vapour erupting from the surface. It's believed that a warm, salty ocean exists beneath its icy surface.

NASA has planned a mission to the moon, called the Europa Clipper. It had proposed a landing mission, but it was cancelled in President Donald Trump's proposed budget. 

Europa moon
Jupiter's moon Europa has warm, salt water oceans that could sustain life. (NASA )

While both moons are too far away to receive any direct warming from the sun, it's believed they are heated by the squeezing as they orbit their massive planets.

Both of these moons are two of the best candidates for life in our solar system.


A media briefing will be held at 2 p.m. ET Thursday in the James Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

Source : cbc.ca

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