Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blinding You with Science: Life on the Moons of Saturn

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Saturn is a remarkable planet for many reasons:

  • Saturn's rings are 21 Earths wide, 65 feet deep and spin at a rate of 20-40,000 miles per hour

  • The material that comprises Saturn's rings is constantly eroded by micro-meteorites and the rings may one day disappear

  • There's a huge ass hurricane on the south pole and a hexagonal vortex on its north pole

  • It's less dense than water and would float if put in a giant ocean

But the weirdest thing about Saturn are its moons.

Titan and Enceladus, two of Saturn's 48 named moons, may have the ingredients necessary to support life.

Titan is the only moon with an atmosphere - an atmosphere made of methane and nitrogen, which are the same two ingredients that comprised Earth's early sky. When scientist Margaret Tolbert of the University of Colorado combined these elements in her lab and exposed them to sunlight, organic compounds began to form. Egads!

Enceladus is covered in snow -- yes, frozen water -- and one region in its southern hemisphere is covered in steam-spouting geysers. (We know it's water vapor because our space probes have flown through the geysers and collected samples, apparently.) Scientists think that the geysers are caused by Saturn's gravitational pull on Enceladus; this pull creates a tidal force that moves ice deep beneath the moon's surface. The friction of this movement warms the ice until it melts, and heats the water until it evaporates, until spouts of water and water vapor burst through the surface of the moon.

Scientists say there may be life in the water beneath the moon's icy surface -- but it would only be in the form of microbes and bacteria.

So, what if we found life on one of Saturn's moons? Would that put an end to Creationism? Or, could one claim that God put the microbes on Enceladus to test our faith?



Carrie said...

i dont think there's any science discovery that could put an end to creationism based solely on the non specificness of the Bible. I could say something funny here, but Gervais does it better....


Mel said...

Yes, I agree.

Perhaps it would at least maim Young Earth creationism -- there is no "on the sixth day, God put microbes on Titan, one of the largest moons in the Solar System," as far as I know.

wolfhook said...

I would only add this Bible verse which is my second favorite right after Luke 6:31 which is Amos 5:8 " He maketh the seven stars (Big Dipper) and Orion." Which I take to mean the universe.

Like to think we just didn't happen
from microbes. That I have a soul/spirit.