That’s no moon!

Enceladus (enSELadis) is in the news today, apparently due to a hot spot that has been discovered at one of the poles. Of course, this could mean that it’s actually a death star and it’s getting ready to discharge. That would 0wn.

Seriously though, as an ex-astronomer i feel i should add a little extra info to the IOL article. You can also find a much better article at the beeb. it has more pictures.

The hot spot is unusual because it occurs at the pole, scientists said. Usually, the hottest part of any planet or moon is around the equator, as is the case with the earth.
This is kind of odd, but scientists aren’t even entirely sure why the equator is usually the hottest part. “Well, it’s because most planets have a rotational axis tilted at or near zero degrees, so the equator gets most of the heat. Uranus is tipped over at nearly 90 degrees, so its one pole should be hotter than the equator. Right?”
Wrong. In fact, despite the fact that Uranus’ south pole is pointed almost exactly at the sun, it’s equator is still hotter. The mechanism for this is still unknown.

“It’s like flying past Antarctica and finding that it’s warmer than the earth’s equatorial regions. It’s that strange.”
Well, that’s not really all that strange. Think about flying over the Arctic instead – you hit iceland and suddenly the heat increases with respect to the surrounding area. Iceland is one of the earth’s most geothermally active areas, and it’s very close to a pole. Granted, it’s not hotter than the equator, but then again it’s not as icy as its name would imply, either. However, earth has quite a radioactive core which provides that geothermal heat. Encaladus is thought to be too small to still have a (radio)active core, but that’s a theory. As we’ve shown, we don’t understand a hell of a lot about how planets work.

The team says the hot spot suggests there might be volcanoes and geysers on Enceladus.
Well actually, this has been suggested by a lot of other stuff that’s already know, like the fact that parts of the surface are relatively new, and that if the E ring material is provided by outgassing from Encaladus it must have happened very recently. So while this is very interesting news, it’s not so much a big surprise as a confirmation of something astronomers have suspected for a while.

The ‘hotspot’ isn’t very hot.
yep, the so called hotspot is in fact -182 degrees. while this is hotter than the surrounding areas, it’s not hot in any real sense of the word. Just to put it in perspective.

The tidal heating theory does not adequately explain the heat, but then again neither does it adequately explain the heating of Io and it’s about the best theory we have for that moon. Seems like something is going on with the moons of the larger planets that is quite interesting and not exactly what we’d expect. most people seem to think that we have the solar system covered, but in fact we do not have even so much as one theory that adequately explaines planet formation in our own solar system, let along others. The Nebular Hypothesis makes attempts at it, but doesn’t cover everything and falls over completely when hit with other systems. So there’s a lot still to be learned.

One important thing to remember about this discovery: heat + ice = liquid water = possibility of life.


I’m sure zenstar will tell you all about our adventures with stray dog last night.

Roleplaying tonight, yay. And my evil rating went up again! Fast approaching the 50% mark!


3 Responses to “That’s no moon!”

  1. You can look a lot closer to home than just the solar system for things we can’t explain even nearly adequately =) Like the brain.

    How does the evil rating thing work? Do you have to rerun the thing every time, or is it a dynamic control that analyzes the page on each load? I suppose I should just click on the damn thing and find out, hey…

  2. you have to go back to the site and run it. I was just thinking today it would rock if it were dynamic.

  3. hey – i’m finally taking notice of my comments, so feel free 😛

    msmhn (MicroSoft Makes Hate Necessary) — it’s the word verification, i couldn’t help myself–>

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