Planetary science: Enceladus' hot springs

  title={Planetary science: Enceladus' hot springs},
  author={Gabriel Tobie},
  • G. Tobie
  • Published 12 March 2015
  • Geology, Physics
  • Nature
The detection of silicon-rich particles originating from Saturn's moon Enceladus suggests that water–rock interactions are currently occurring inside it — the first evidence of ongoing hydrothermal activity beyond Earth. See Letter p.207 Hsiang-Wen Hsu et al. have analysed the silicon-rich, nanometre-sized dust stream particles in the Saturnian system using the Cosmic Dust Analyser (CDA) onboard the Cassini spacecraft. With the help of experiments and modelling, the particles are interpreted… 
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Ongoing hydrothermal activities within Enceladus
Analysis of silicon-rich, nanometre-sized dust particles (so-called stream particles) that stand out from the water-ice-dominated objects characteristic of Saturn indicate ongoing high-temperature (>90 °C) hydrothermal reactions associated with global-scale geothermal activity that quickly transports hydroThermal products from the ocean floor at a depth of at least 40 kilometres up to the plume of Enceladus.
Composition of Saturnian Stream Particles
During Cassini's approach to Saturn, the Cosmic Dust Analyser discovered streams of tiny high-velocity dust particles escaping from the saturnian system, which implies that the particles are impurities from the icy ring material rather than the ice particles themselves.
A salt-water reservoir as the source of a compositionally stratified plume on Enceladus
Whereas previous Cassini observations were compatible with a variety of plume formation mechanisms, these data eliminate or severely constrain non-liquid models and strongly imply that a salt-water reservoir with a large evaporating surface provides nearly all of the matter in the plume.
Follow the plume: the habitability of Enceladus.
The science goals that would motivate an Enceladus mission are more advanced than for any other Solar System body, and the goals of such a mission must go beyond further geophysical characterization, extending to the search for biomolecular evidence of life in the organic-rich plume.
An off-axis hydrothermal vent field near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at 30° N
Evidence is growing that hydrothermal venting occurs not only along mid-ocean ridges but also on old regions of the oceanic crust away from spreading centres. Here we report the discovery of an