The Cassini probe has been for a long time in deep space around Saturn, and has discovered many interesting things. And although its primary mission was to study this gas giant, its mission took a surprising turn when it first arrived in the are and detected geological activity on one of Saturn’s moons, the oceanic world of Enceladus.
The Cassini probe has already visited this moon multiple times, including once when it got within 16 miles of the moon’s surface (for reference, it typically floats at millions of miles away), and once when it was able to capture some of the plume of ocean spray that erupts from Enceladus’ south pole. This water sample, it is hoped, will give us information as to whether or not Enceladus’ ocean could support life.
The Cassini probe has already visited this moon multiple times, including once when it got within 16 miles of the moon’s surface, and once when it was able to capture some of the plume of ocean spray that erupts from Enceladus’ south pole.
Now, as it makes its last pass, Cassini will be performing another crucial scientific endeavor — measuring heat coming from the planet. The south pole will again be the site for this exploration. Since it has been in Saturn’s shadow for over a year now, it should be relatively easy to distinguish heat coming from inside the moon from heat coming from the sun. The ice crust is also thinnest on the south pole, meaning it is easier to get a good read.
This is important because, if there is heat emanating from inside the planet, it suggests the possibility of hydrothermal events. This is also key to understanding what, exactly, is driving the geysers of water that shoot into space, according to NASA’s web page for the Cassini mission.
But an understanding of the physics of the geysers is not the only thing at stake. In what has captured the imagination of many, this experimentation will also help to determine the viability of life on the oceanic moon, according to Gizmodo.