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Icy Saturn's moon hiding saltwater ocean beneath its crust.

London, June 23 (ANI): Scientists have found the strongest evidence yet for the existence of a large-scale, subterranean saltwater ocean beneath the Saturn's moon Enceladus.

In a new international study led by the University of Heidelberg and involving the University of Colorado Boulder, samples of icy spray shooting from the Enceladus have been collected during Cassini spacecraft flybys, which prove the presence of the saltwater ocean.

The new discovery was made during the Cassini-Huygens mission toaturn, a collaboration of NASA, the European Space Agency and thetalian Space Agency.

The plumes shooting water vapor and tiny grains of ice into space were originally discovered emanating from Enceladus-one of 19 known moons of Saturn-by the Cassini spacecraft in 2005.

During three of Cassini's passes through the plume in 2008 and 2009, the Cosmic Dust Analyzer, or CDA, on board measured the composition of freshly ejected plume grains.

The icy particles hit the detector's target at speeds of up to 11 miles per second, instantly vaporizing them.

The CDA separated the constituents of the resulting vapor clouds, allowing scientists to analyze them.

The study shows the ice grains found further out from Enceladus are relatively small and mostly ice-poor, closely matching the composition of the E Ring.

Closer to the moon, however, the Cassini observations indicate that relatively large, salt-rich grains dominate.

"There currently is no plausible way to produce a steady outflow of salt-rich grains from solid ice across all the tiger stripes other than the salt water under Enceladus' icy surface," said Frank Postberg of the University of Germany and study's lead author.

"The study indicates that 'salt-poor' particles are being ejected from the underground ocean through cracks in the moon at a much higher speed than the larger, salt-rich particles," said CU-Boulder faculty member and study co-author Sascha Kempf of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

The study was published in Nature on June 23. (ANI)

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Publication:Asian News International
Date:Jun 23, 2011
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