Highly alkaline water on Saturn moon could support alien life
JPL-Caltech/NASA, Space Science Institute
Swimming in the sea of the Saturnian moon Enceladus might be like taking a dip in household ammonia.
An ocean hidden beneath the moon’s icy crust is highly alkaline, similar to soda lakes on Earth, researchers have found. The water chemistry provides a peek at how the water interacts with rock in the moon’s core, creating an environment in which life could arise.
Christopher Glein, a geochemist at the University of Toronto, and colleagues used data from the Cassini mission to estimate the ocean’s pH, a measure of how acidic or alkaline the water is. The spacecraft, which has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004, periodically passes through water plumes that are thought to spray saltwater from an ocean beneath the moon’s surface (SN: 9/6/14, p. 15). By combining measurements of carbon dioxide and salts in the plumes, Glein’s