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Wednesday 12 April 2017

What's NASA's mystery discovery?

Above: A diagram of Europa's ice protected ocean.
What's NASA's big announcement about? True, I could just wait until Thursday when they'll, y'know, announce it. But where's the fun in that?

Well... looking over the list of  who'll be there, and the press call...

NASA to Reveal New Discoveries in News Conference on Oceans Beyond Earth

NASA is exploring the ocean worlds in our solar system as part of our search for life outside of Earth.
NASA will discuss new results about ocean worlds in our solar system from the agency’s Cassini spacecraft and the Hubble Space Telescope during a news briefing 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, April 13. The event, to be held at the James Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters in Washington, will include remote participation from experts across the country.
The briefing will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's website.
These new discoveries will help inform future ocean world exploration -- including NASA’s upcoming Europa Clipper mission planned for launch in the 2020s -- and the broader search for life beyond Earth.
The news briefing participants will be:
  • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington 
  • Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters
  • Mary Voytek, astrobiology senior scientist at NASA Headquarters
  • Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California
  • Hunter Waite, Cassini Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer team lead at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio
  • Chris Glein, Cassini INMS team associate at SwRI
  • William Sparks, astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore
A question-and-answer session will take place during the event with reporters on site and by phone. Members of the public also can ask questions during the briefing using #AskNASA. money is on this relating to one of the ocean moons orbiting Jupiter or Saturn. Jupiter's best known ocean world is Europa, and Saturn's is called Enceladus. Both have ice covered oceans, and both are known or suspected to vent some of their ocean water into space from time to time. Both oceans are thought to be some of the best locations to look for alien life - much better than Mars' deserts, although much harder to reach.

Since the Cassini mission, which has spent a good amount of time studying the water being vented from Enceladus, is going into it's final phase I'm betting on some discovery about the nature of Enceladus ocean, and the mysterious process that keeps it warm and liquid. Possibly something to do with the chemistry of the sea water, since Cassini flew through the plumes leaking from it not too long ago. 

I may be right (or not) but stay tuned for more news...

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Above: Enceladus.

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