A warm ocean on Enceladus?

mobilehaathi

macrumors G3
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Looks like Cassini has found some indirect evidence of a warm ocean under the icy surface of Saturn's Enceladus. The mind boggles...

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first clear evidence that Saturn’s moon Enceladus exhibits signs of present-day hydrothermal activity which may resemble that seen in the deep oceans on Earth. The implications of such activity on a world other than our planet open up unprecedented scientific possibilities.

“These findings add to the possibility that Enceladus, which contains a subsurface ocean and displays remarkable geologic activity, could contain environments suitable for living organisms,” said John Grunsfeld astronaut and associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The locations in our solar system where extreme environments occur in which life might exist may bring us closer to answering the question: are we alone in the Universe.”
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I think it's becoming more and more obvious that Earth is hardly the only place in the universe that can play host to some form of life. Especially when you consider the plethora of extremophile species that our own planet plays host to. It's not a stretch to assume that life such as it could not only survive, but thrive elsewhere even in our own back yard.

The question of life existing elsewhere is barely even a question worth asking anymore. The only one that remains is wondering whether intelligent life exists elsewhere.
 

Mal67

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Given the number of suspected larger extra-solar planets there is probably a very good chance that there are many other such environments around other stars out there too. Now just to get a probe down there on this one and Ganymede and Europa.....
 

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macrumors Sandy Bridge
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Here are some raw, unprocessed, images that Cassini took of Enceladus that just came in. Really exciting pictures too.

View attachment 596955 View attachment 596956 View attachment 596957 View attachment 596958 View attachment 596959 View attachment 596960
Stunning. Absolutely awesome. Thanks @SandboxGeneral for sharing; this is brilliant stuff which leaves me speechless with wonder.

Wow, great shots!
Couldn't agree more.

Sure are. I grabbed these from the CassiniSaturn Twitter feed as well as the NASAJPL feed.
Wonderful, and thanks again, for sharing - this is incredible stuff. I would have been slack-jawed as a kid had this stuff been available. Our horizons have really been opened hugely over the past few years by what has been discovered and made known to us.
 
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SandboxGeneral

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I would have been slack-jawed as a kid had this stuff been available.
One thing that I am disappointed in, is that I'll never live long enough to see some of the forthcoming discoveries in the Universe and technology that will further our understanding of things. There are so many things beyond our reach of knowledge, and probably always will be, that it's exciting to think about what may be discovered as time progresses.
 

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macrumors Sandy Bridge
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I was expecting that. A liquid ocean is probably our best bet for finding something!
Ah, but - even if we found something that might loosely be termed 'life', or even 'intelligent life' - would it be 'life' as we know it? While water is a prerequisite for life, it is not the only element or factor in that equation. (Light, gravity, are but two of the others…temperatures are a third...)

Anyway, I suspect that whatever might be found that could be expressed as 'life' - will present in a drastically different way than what we expect.
 

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macrumors Sandy Bridge
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One thing that I am disappointed in, is that I'll never live long enough to see some of the forthcoming discoveries in the Universe and technology that will further our understanding of things. There are so many things beyond our reach of knowledge, and probably always will be, that it's exciting to think about what may be discovered as time progresses.
Absolutely. I agree completely with you. But, that doesn't stop my awe and wonder at what has been discovered during my life - even during my life as an adult.

When I look back to the books my parents bought me as a kid (yes, I was fascinated by this stuff and used to request books on these matters), and remember their contents (in the way that nerds do) I realise how much more we have come to know, and been privileged to live through, since - say - those two splendid Voyagers took off in the late 1970s (and I remember those news stories covering the take-off as a kid - to say I was awestruck would be a massive understatement).
 
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SandboxGeneral

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Absolutely. I agree completely with you. But, that doesn't stop my awe and wonder at what has been discovered during my life - even during my life as an adult.

When I look back to the books my parents bought me as a kid (yes, I was fascinated by this stuff and used to request books on these matters), and remember their contents (in the way that nerds do) I realise how much more we have come to know, and been privileged to live through, since - say - those two splendid Voyagers took off in the late 1970s (and I remember those news stories covering the take-off as a kid - to say I was awestruck would be a massive understatement).
My earliest memories of Space exploration, in any form, was in grade school, 1986. The school brought us into a common room, rolled out a TV and tuned in to watch the Challenger Space Shuttle take off with school teacher Sharon McAuliffe aboard. Of course, 73 seconds after takeoff.... we know what happened.

Since then, I've had a fascination of all things outer space and that fascination has only been enhanced since the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope and the stunning images from deep space it shows us.
 

mobilehaathi

macrumors G3
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Ah, but - even if we found something that might loosely be termed 'life', or even 'intelligent life' - would it be 'life' as we know it? While water is a prerequisite for life, it is not the only element or factor in that equation. (Light, gravity, are but two of the others…temperatures are a third...)

Anyway, I suspect that whatever might be found that could be expressed as 'life' - will present in a drastically different way than what we expect.
You're right. Our idea of life is conceived based on how it arose here. The search for life 'in general' isn't well defined. Since we're far more familiar with what seems to constitute life on Earth, we understand more about trying to find it, and so if it exists nearby that is the kind of life we're likely to find first. Looking for life as we recognize it is the 'low-hanging fruit.'
 

SandboxGeneral

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You're right. Our idea of life is conceived based on how it arose here. The search for life 'in general' isn't well defined. Since we're far more familiar with what seems to constitute life on Earth, we understand more about trying to find it, and so if it exists nearby that is the kind of life we're likely to find first. Looking for life as we recognize it is the 'low-hanging fruit.'
Very true. The problem is we're limited to only one point of data for the definition of life: Planet Earth.
 

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macrumors Sandy Bridge
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My earliest memories of Space exploration, in any form, was in grade school, 1986. The school brought us into a common room, rolled out a TV and tuned in to watch the Challenger Space Shuttle take off with school teacher Sharon McAuliffe aboard. Of course, 73 seconds after takeoff.... we know what happened.

Since then, I've had a fascination of all things outer space and that fascination has only been enhanced since the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope and the stunning images from deep space it shows us.
Oh, gosh, yes. Good grief. Yes, of course, I remember that - I had just started teaching as a TA; that poor brave women - as I recall it, the idea - or plan - was to have her teach a class from space - a brilliant idea.

With the Voyagers, I remember the news reports, and those twin ships blasting off a few weeks apart in early autumn 1977; I remember hearing the dates of the planned rendez-vous with Jupiter and Saturn, (1979 and 1980) and how Voyager Two was scheduled to pass Uranus and Neptune in 1986 and 1989 respectively, dates which seemed impossibly far distant in the future at the time, and have since receded into the past.


You're right. Our idea of life is conceived based on how it arose here. The search for life 'in general' isn't well defined. Since we're far more familiar with what seems to constitute life on Earth, we understand more about trying to find it, and so if it exists nearby that is the kind of life we're likely to find first. Looking for life as we recognize it is the 'low-hanging fruit.'
Yes, 'Low hanging fruit' indeed, but I suspect that the real story - or stories - will be found further up the branches of that particular system.

Well, as @SandboxGeneral, @Kurwenal and @mobilehaathi all know, I am a big fan of Star Trek, especially STNG. It was a terrific, imaginative, and generous show. However, one of the things that always annoyed me (only a little, I must admit) was the lack of imagination in depicting alien life forms.

There is nothing in any science that I have read - now, I'm not an expert, merely an enthusiastic and fairly well read amateur - which suggests that any life we ever encounter will have to take a humanoid form, and reflect humanoid concerns (not least about gender and other such matters).

If gravity, oxygen levels, nitrogen levels, carbon capacity, temperatures, light, - and indeed liquid water - are all somewhat differently expressed elsewhere, it stands to reason that whatever will have evolved that has adapted to these specific set of circumstances may well resemble something radically different to what we may expect to see.
 
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SandboxGeneral

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There is nothing in any science that I have read - now, I'm not an expert, merely an enthusiastic and fairly well read amateur - which suggests that any life we ever encounter will have to take a humanoid form, and reflect humanoid concerns (not least about gender and other such matters).
Agreed. However, given that this was Hollywood stuff, especially in prior decades where special effects were limited, and alien lifeforms were depicted as humanoid, were probably due, in part, to the need to fit a human into a costume to play the part.

Although, there was an episode of Star Trek, TOS, where they encountered a silicon-based life-form, rather than the traditional carbon-based life-forms.

Episode "Devil in the Dark" 1967.
STDevil_inTheDark.jpg
 
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macrumors Sandy Bridge
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The Far Horizon
Agreed. However, given that this was Hollywood stuff, especially in prior decades where special effects were limited, and alien lifeforms were depicted as humanoid, were probably due, in part, to the need to fit a human into a costume to play the part.

Although, there was an episode of Star Trek, TOS, where they encountered a silicon-based life-form, rather than the traditional carbon-based life-forms.

Episode "Devil in the Dark" 1967.
View attachment 596998
Ah, I had forgotten that, very well spotted. And I seem to remember Mr Spock mind-melding with something that wasn't remotely human...
 
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macrumors Sandy Bridge
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I probably have a better recollection of TOS episodes than I do of TNG episodes. :p
Well, TOS was shown - in its entirety - one year when I was teaching in my home university. My mother and I used to watch it together - and we later used to watch STNG together.

Anyway, I recall having a fierce internal struggle one night. This came about because I used to be the debating society's permanent (in-house) member of staff adjudicator - I had been an active student debater in my own student days, participating in the Observer Mace and such like - and some of my students had asked me to do the needful, and of course I was more than happy to comply - but one night a rather important debate clashed with TOS.

Of course, I adjudicated the debate, but not without a (silent) internal struggle. Later, I confessed this to some of my students, who - quite rightly - thought it hilarious.

Some of the episodes were brilliant.
 
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Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
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Of course, those were the days - the early 90s - when STNG was being broadcast in its original incarnation.

There was one year - I blush to recall it but the precise details escape my mind, and this one was not confessed to students (or university authorities) - but I used to teach evening classes as well. Anyway, one year, one particular class clashed with the weekly slot of STNG.

Thus, with evident regret, I blandly informed the politics department that the originally envisaged time was not convenient, - omitting to mention the precise nature of the inconvenience - and requested a re-scheduling, which was granted without further ado.

I suppose that I was the sort of academic who found it easier to reschedule a class, than to learn how to programme those impossibly complicated VHS machines - a skill I never mastered. When my brother was home, he would record football for himself, and STNG for me.

Mother- in her prime - was very knowledgeable about both TOS and STNG, enjoyed them hugely, and would discuss episodes endlessly. Like myself, she had a soft spot for Captain Picard.