May 2017 Europlanet webinar will address the exploration of Saturn’s icy moons as possible habitats and European involvement in the Cassini mission. The webinar will feature the planetary science expert, Athena Coustenis from Observatoire de Paris-Meudon, France and hosted by NUCLIO.
Title: Exploration of Saturn’s Icy Moons as Possible Habitats
Date: 30 May 2017
Time: 09:00 GMT / 11:00 CEST
The study of the habitable conditions in our solar system tends to extend the limits of the traditional habitable zone towards the outer parts. Several of the icy moons around gas giants show promising conditions for the development and/or maintenance of life. Jupiter’s Europa and Ganymede as well as Saturn’s Titan and Enceladus, seem to have some of the requirements for habitability, like organic-rich atmospheres and underground liquid water oceans for which we find evidence in the data acquired by the Galileo and the Cassini-Huygens missions.
Among these worlds, Titan, Saturn’s biggest satellite, is a fascinating object with great astrobiological potential: although far away from the Sun, it resembles the Earth by its nitrogen-dominated atmosphere, organic chemistry, hydrocarbon lakes, its ocean of liquid water inside, and seasonal variations. Quite different from Earth at the same time by its very low temperature (-180 ° C), lack of oxygen etc. Enceladus, another small satellite of Saturn that combines water vapour and organics in its geysers and must have liquid water close under the surface… The liquid water oceans hidden under icy crusts may even be (in the case of Enceladus) in direct contact with a silicate mantle floor and kept warm through time by tidally generated heat. Furthermore, the strong gravitational pull caused by the giant planets may produce enough energy to sufficiently heat the cores of orbiting icy moons.