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The subsurface ocean of Enceladus: A habitable place in our solar system

Prof Frank Postberg  |  Institute of Geological Sciences - Planetary Sciences   |  University of Berlin

Abstract: Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus harbours a global ocean, which lies under an ice crust of just a few kilometres thickness and above a rocky core. Through warm cracks in the crust a cryo-volcanic plume ejects ice grains and vapour into space providing access to materials originating from the ocean. The ocean is 30 – 55 km deep and provides an environment of mild salinity and alkaline pH. Hydrothermal activity is suspected to be occurring at the bottom of the ocean and also deep inside the water-percolated porous. The energy for these processes is delivered by tidal dissipation. The presentation focuses on results from the two mass spectrometers aboard the Cassini spacecraft, which frequently carried out compositional in situ measurements of plume material emerging from the subsurface of Enceladus.