A team of researchers from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), USA, has developed a new geochemical model that shows that the concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) on Enceladus, Saturn's moon with a subsurface ocean, can be controlled by chemical reactions taking place on the ocean floor. A study of jets of gases and frozen water droplets from the ocean that burst from cracks in the icy surface of Enceladus indicate that the interior of Saturn's moon is more complex than previously thought.
“By understanding the composition of these jets, we can gain a deeper understanding of this ocean and the possibility of the conditions necessary for the formation and development of life in it,” said researcher at SwRI Christopher Glein, lead author of this new work. “We have proposed a new jet composition method to estimate the concentration of CO2 dissolved in the water of the subsurface ocean. This made it possible to simulate the processes taking place deeper in the bowels of Enceladus."
Analysis of mass spectrometry data collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows that observed CO2 levels are best explained by geochemical reactions between the planet's rocky core and the liquid water of its subsurface ocean. Combining this information with previously available information about the presence of silicon dioxide (SiO2) and molecular hydrogen (H2) in the water of this ocean, the researchers concluded that the core of Enceladus is a more complex and geochemically diverse structure than previously thought.
The research is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.