A “Perrier ocean” on Enceladus?

A new study suggests that the water-ice geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus originate from a bubbly, salty subsurface sea or ocean, a variation of previous theories.

New image of the plumes, released October 1, 2010. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

From the article:

“Matson and his colleagues came up with a computer model that accommodates much of what is known about the geysers of Enceladus. Their findings support the supposition that a salty sea flows under the moon’s surface.

This ocean has gases dissolved in it, the theory goes. As the seawater flows up to and through the tiger stripe fissures, its pressure drops and the gases bubble up, Matson said — making the ocean fizzy, like Perrier. The relatively warm water and expanding gas feed the jets.

When the bubbles pop, they throw off a fine spray that contains salt and other materials, which Cassini spotted in Enceladus’ plumes. Then the seawater, having dumped much of its warmth on the moon’s surface ice, cools and sinks back through cracks, rejoining the ocean and its heat-transferring circulation system.”

Perrier, anyone?