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Salty plumes raise prospects for liquid water in Enceladus
Posted: Thu, Jun 25, 2009, 7:13 AM ET (1113 GMT)
Enceladus seen by Cassini (NASA/JPL) Scientists have detected sodium salts in material ejected by Saturn's moon Enceladus, a finding that makes it more likely that the moon had liquid water in its interior. Researchers detected the sodium salts in spectroscopic analysis of ice grains in the plumes by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. They believe that the only way to get salts in the concentrations detected in the plumes is if the moon has a layer of liquid water below its icy surface, dissolving minerals in rock layers below to create the salts. A related study, though, did not detect sodium using groundbased telescopes, suggesting that sodium concentrations are lower than around many other planetary bodies. Scientists suggested that the plumes may not be caused by geysers linked to near-surface oceans but instead from evaporation of water sources deeper underground.
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