content long 20-August-2018 22:02:16

Winners Ireland

16-18 years old: Ice plumes at the south pole of Enceladus

Author: Waldemar Lagodzinski

Enceladus Plumes are out of the three options the most interesting and fascination and I believe that they will yield the best scientific results out of the three if the Cassini Space Orbiter was to do more missions involving observation of the plumes and the Moon itself. The main reason I believe that the plumes will yield the best scientific results is because: Initially the Enceladus Plumes were observed by scientists ejecting large amounts of water vapour from the south polar surface, the observation was made by the Cassini Space Orbiter back in 2005 and it was the first evidence of water on Enceladus. Due to this observation, it was concluded that the Moon contains a reservoir below the surface which feeds the Plums. At the time though it was unknown if the Moon contained a full ocean below the surface or just a small body of water that was concentrated at the south pole where these plumes ejected vapour towards Saturn. It was also calculated the moon has a very slight wobble as it orbits Saturn, this unsteady motion was concluded to be due to the water (ocean below the surface) sloshing around inside the moon as it orbits instead of the idea that the moon was made of ice all the way to core.

The conclusion that the moon contains an ocean below the surface is both fascinating and incredibly interesting as this has incredible potential, if more missions are carried out to investigate and study both the plumes and the moon to gain some really valuable scientific data and even make an enormous scientific breakthrough. The reason I say breakthrough is because the presence of an ocean beneath the surface which if it contains the right conditions, an energy source and the necessary organic compounds has the potential to contain extra-terrestrial life on a microscopic level such as single cell organisms, which if discovered would be the first ever discovery of life beyond earth and it would also answer the age-old question “Are we alone in the universe ?”. But even beyond the most fascinating discovery that could potentially be made, there is still other unanswered questions such as how Enceladus could have maintained a liquid ocean for so long and where the necessary energy comes from to do this, it has been proposed that the main heating mechanism is tidal forces which can be attributed to Saturn with potential radioactive decay and some sort of heat producing chemical reaction that could be taking place beneath the surface but it is still unknown and further missions would help uncover these mysteries about Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Last Update: 19 May 2017

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