DIY Mirror Astronomy



Water in its life-sustaining liquid phase exists beyond our own planet, both in our Solar System--and elsewhere. With oceans of water sloshing around on 71% of our own planet's surface, Earth still remains the only planet known to have stable bodies of liquid water. Liquid water is essential for all known life forms on Earth. The existence of water on the surface of Earth is the outcome of its atmospheric pressure and a stable orbit in our Sun;s circumstellar habitable zone. The habitable zone is that Goldilocks region, surrounding a star, where the temperature is not too hot, not too cold, but just right for life sustaining water to exist in its liquid phase. However, the origin of Earth's water still remains unknown. There was a time when Earth had no Moon. About 4.5 billion years ago, when our ancient Solar System was still forming, the dark night sky above our primordial planet was moonless. At this time, the Earth was about 60 percent formed, although it did have a differentiated crust, mantle, and core. This was a very chaotic and violent era in our Solar System's past, with planets first forming out of blobs of primordial dust, gas, and rock. During this era, frequently likened to a "cosmic shooting gallery", collisions between the still-forming planets were commonplace. Orbits were not as orderly as they are now. Enceladus: Enceladus has shown geysers of water that were confirmed by the Cassini spacecraft in 2005. Gravimetric data obtained from 2010 to 2011 confirmed the existence of a subsurface ocean. Even though originally it was thought to be localized, most likely in a region of the icy moon's southern hemisphere, evidence collected in 2015 indicates the subsurface ocean is actually global. Furthermore, in additon to water, these geysers from vents located near the south pole of Enceladus contain tiny quantities of salt, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and volatile hydrocarbons. Tidal flux from Saturn is apparently responsible for the melting of the ocean water, as well as the geysers.