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Powering Saturn's Active Ocean Moon

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Heat from friction could power hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus for billions of years if the moon has a highly porous core, according to a new modeling study by European and U.S. researchers working on NASA's Cassini mission.

The study, published today in the journal Nature Astronomy, helps resolve a question scientist have grappled with for a decade:  Where does the energy to power the extraordinary geologic activity on Enceladus come from?

Heat from friction could power hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus for billions of years if the moon has a highly porous core, according to a new modeling study by European and U.S. researchers working on NASA's Cassini mission.

The study, published today in the journal Nature Astronomy, helps resolve a question scientist have grappled with for a decade:  Where does the energy to power the extraordinary geologic activity on Enceladus come from?

Cassini found that Enceladus sprays towering, geyser-like jets of water vapor and icy particles, including simple organics, from warm fractures near its south pole. Additional investigation revealed the moon has a global ocean beneath its icy crust, from which the jets are venting into space. Multiple lines of evidence from Cassini indicate that hydrothermal activity -- hot water interacting chemically with rock -- is taking place on the seafloor.

Read more at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Image: A recent study has provided new insights into how the warm interior of Saturn's geologically active moon Enceladus could be sustained for billions of years.

Image Credits: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute