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Habitability of Enceladus: Planetary Conditions for Life

Parkinson, Christopher D. and Liang, Mao-Chang and Yung, Yuk L. and Kirschvink, Joseph L. (2008) Habitability of Enceladus: Planetary Conditions for Life. Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere, 38 (4). pp. 355-369. ISSN 0169-6149. doi:10.1007/s11084-008-9135-4.

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The prolific activity and presence of a plume on Saturn's tiny moon Enceladus offers us a unique opportunity to sample the interior composition of an icy satellite, and to look for interesting chemistry and possible signs of life. Based on studies of the potential habitability of Jupiter's moon Europa, icy satellite oceans can be habitable if they are chemically mixed with the overlying ice shell on Myr time scales. We hypothesize that Enceladus’ plume, tectonic processes, and possible liquid water ocean may create a complete and sustainable geochemical cycle that may allow it to support life. We discuss evidence for surface/ocean material exchange on Enceladus based on the amounts of silicate dust material present in the Enceladus’ plume particles. Microphysical cloud modeling of Enceladus’ plume shows that the particles originate from a region of Enceladus’ near surface where the temperature exceeds 190 K. This could be consistent with a shear-heating origin of Enceladus’ tiger stripes, which would indicate extremely high temperatures (∼250–273 K) in the subsurface shear fault zone, leading to the generation of subsurface liquid water, chemical equilibration between surface and subsurface ices, and crustal recycling on a time scale of 1 to 5 Myr. Alternatively, if the tiger stripes form in a mid-ocean-ridge-type mechanism, a half-spreading rate of 1 m/year is consistent with the observed regional heat flux of 250 mW m−2 and recycling of south polar terrain crust on a 1 to 5 Myr time scale as well.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Parkinson, Christopher D.0000-0002-5722-2224
Liang, Mao-Chang0000-0002-5294-9344
Yung, Yuk L.0000-0002-4263-2562
Kirschvink, Joseph L.0000-0001-9486-6689
Additional Information:© 2008 Springer Science + Business Media B.V. Received: 11 October 2007; Accepted: 10 April 2008; Published online: 20 June 2008. We thank A. C. Barr and W. McKinnon for valuable discussions and communication of results prior to publication. We thank C. Boxe, P. Chen, B. A. D’Amore, X. Guo, H. Hartman, L. Kuai, R. Pappalardo, and R.-L. Shia for critical reading of the manuscript and helpful discussions. This research is supported in part by the Cassini Project and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Cassini ProjectUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140826-084746711
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Official Citation:Parkinson, C., Liang, M.-C., Yung, Y., & Kirschivnk, J. (2008). Habitability of Enceladus: Planetary Conditions for Life. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres, 38(4), 355-369. doi: 10.1007/s11084-008-9135-4
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:48888
Deposited On:26 Aug 2014 19:55
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 18:37

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