by Theodore R. Frimet
not a question, et al.
With the occurrence of the four tiger stripes on the Southern Region of Enceladus, we turn our cats’ eye view to the ejecta. Cassini, having done four fly-bys, and directed thru the plumes, had done her analysis. And the results are quite something to speculate on, for an Astronomer, on this fine Sunday morning.
The interaction of Saturn’s E ring, notably coats the sides of Saturn’s inner moons with grains. This is cause for hurrah, as the surface of Enceladus thus becomes anew, and refreshed, sans any other geological activity. However, hold onto your hats. Da Plume! Da Plume!
The icy jets and water, exhumed from the inner workings of Enceladus, has of course been imaged by Cassini, as far back as 2005. Ultimately, there were seven fly thru’s, directly tasting gas and ice particles. The 2015 direct dive, thru the plume, detected small silica grains, by means of the Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA). Author Linda Spilker, in her write up of Gas Giant Planets and review of 13 years of discovery, (Science, 14 June 2019, pp. 1046-1051), excites me with the most likely source of these less than 10 nm in size particulates originating from Enceladus’ ocean (H.-W. Hsu Nature 519, 207-210, year 2015). Hydrothermal vents.
Imagine my flurry of excitement, as my visual cortex summons National Geographic of old. Our native hydrothermal vents, seated on the sea floor, spew high temperature. And deposits ejecta to build a mound, topped with heat that life cannot withstand. Almost. I say, “almost” as surrounding the hydrothermal vent mounding, is life. Life abounds in the form of adapted worms, and crustaceans. You now know my thoughts. What I see, is now what you see. Hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor of Enceladus has life.
Hydrothermal based life forms have been brought to her, by means of tidal interactions. The squish and squeeze of her mass, produces energy that is life giving. Diving below her 26-31 km thick ice shell, and within the 10 km ocean, (Spilker et al, citing L. less et al., Science 344, 78-80, year 2014) combined with the detection of organic fragments, leaves me breathless. I struggled this morning, over toast and coffee, to share with you, my thoughts of life on another planet.
I am not bound by the principles of those that cloak themselves as the priests of science. So take a moment, and congratulate yourselves on my ignorance. That I may share with you, an unfettered view, that we are not alone, after all.