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Scientists say they've found water beneath the surface of a moon of Saturn—a sea the size of Lake Superior.

Saturn gets no closer to us than 839 million miles. To put that in perspective, light from the sun takes a little more than 8 minutes to get to Earth. Sunlight takes an additional 71 minutes to reach Saturn.

I mention this distance because of some of the measurements scientists had to make to find the water. One of measurements involved how fast NASA's Cassini spacecraft was moving as it orbited Enceladus, the moon in question. (Cassini arrived in Saturn's neighborhood ten years ago.)

The New York Times article about the discovery of water said scientists "could discern changes in the velocity of Cassini ... as minuscule as 14 inches an hour." From nearly a billion miles away. That's shake-my-head amazing.

The Times article does a great job making the discovery easy to understand:

(Big science made easy)


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 5th, 2014 05:51 pm (UTC)
"The challenges are to make sure that the interesting particles would not break apart, to take precautions that any alien life would not infect Earth, and to fit it into the $500 million budget of one of NASA’s lower-cost planetary missions."

What about our life infecting them if we start researching? Mind blowing that they can work all this out so well. Three cheers for higher education.

Apr. 6th, 2014 03:30 am (UTC)
Given our record as a species, the Enceladusians no doubt are hoping we'll forget about them.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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