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Is There Water on Other Planets?

Depending on the temperature and pressure of a planet, water on other worlds can take different forms. Clathrate hydrates are a good example. They resemble ice, but have water-based cages inside. These trapped molecules prevent them from collapsing. Therefore, if water is present on other planets, it would be similar to the ice we have on Earth. This is the best scenario if water is found on other worlds.

Earth’s moons

Astronomers confirmed in 2018 that water exists on the surface of the moon. Water ice resides on the coldest and darkest regions of the moon, where there is no sunlight. The lunar surface is covered in shadow-shrouded craters, which suggest that water is prevalent. The researchers also found evidence that water ice may be widespread across the surface. However, they haven’t determined the exact source of water.

Molecular water is thought to exist on the sunny regions of the Moon, but has not been confirmed. More observations are necessary to pinpoint the precise location of concentrated water. Exploration missions might be able to find this water on volcanic deposits. If true, this discovery would change the way humans explore the moon and pave the way for a sustainable human presence. But if we are unable to find this liquid, then we are left with the question, “Is water on Earth’s moons?”

The scientists behind SOFIA, an airborne observatory, are studying the surface water on the moon. SOFIA flies high through the atmosphere, so it minimizes the disturbance caused by Earth’s water-heavy atmosphere. The instruments on SOFIA helped distinguish molecular water from hydroxyl compounds on the moon. A 1969 study on lunar mineralogy and a balloon observatory had discovered glassy water features on the moon. However, these observations were never published.

Saturn’s moons

If there is water on Earth, it has to be present in other planets as well. However, if we’re talking about the gas giants, the water ice is more likely to be in the outer layers of their atmosphere. This is not a surprise, as these planets grew much faster than their terrestrial cousins. Nevertheless, the seeds of gaseous atmospheres are found in Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Jupiter. The seeds would have been vaporized and subsequently formed the atmospheres of these planets.

There are several moons of Saturn that may contain liquid water. The largest moon, Titan, is similar to Earth’s early days, and it could be home to an ocean. However, this ice planet wobbles during its orbit around Saturn, so researchers are speculating about a possible ocean underneath the icy world. If this is true, it could also be the case that Mimas contains a football-shaped core.

Scientists have long speculated about the origins of liquid water on the outer planets. The giant gas giant Jupiter has a large moon called Europa, which has massive oceans beneath the surface. The ice shell on Enceladus may be an icy shell that protects the water ice beneath it. Likewise, the large asteroid Europa may have a subsurface ocean of liquid water.

Jupiter’s moon Enceladus

Scientists have uncovered evidence of a large ocean beneath the surface of Jupiter’s moon Enceladus. The evidence comes from measurements of the gravity, Doppler effect, and the size of the moon’s wobble, which are consistent with a global ocean within the moon. The surface of Enceladus is composed almost entirely of water ice, with trace amounts of carbon dioxide and light hydrocarbons.

A recent study of the moon’s plumes revealed surprising amounts of hydrogen and methane. The high concentrations of hydrogen and methane suggest microbes evolved around hydrothermal vents. The research has been supported by NASA’s Cassini space probe. The results have forced scientists to look at other icy worlds in our Solar System. Among the moons studied by NASA are Enceladus and Europa, two of Jupiter’s four largest satellites.

In 2008, NASA and ESA scientists evaluated mission concepts for the missions to Europa and Enceladus. The TSSM, a joint NASA-ESA mission, is slated to arrive in the 2020s and fly by Europa’s radiation field. In the meantime, the European Space Agency has a plan to launch a robotic probe to Europa and Callisto. These missions are expected to collect data from both moons.

Saturn’s moon Dione

The trailing hemisphere of Saturn’s moon Dione is marked by huge cliffs and fractures. Voyager 1 first observed these wispy features on Dione in 1980. The Cassini spacecraft confirmed that they are cliffs. These fractures, as well as the cratering markings on the moon’s surface, hint that there may have been episodic tectonic activity on Dione.

The results of Cassini mission data revealed that Dione’s crust may float on top of a water ocean a few tens of kilometers deep. A large rocky core lies below the ocean. Dione is remarkably similar to its smaller neighbor, Enceladus. But unlike its giant neighbor, Enceladus, Dione is relatively quiet and lacks giant jets of water vapor. Its broken surface also bears witness to an active history.

The low density of Dione is consistent with equal amounts of rock and ice. The density of craters suggests that Dione is about four billion years old. At the same time, the density of the craters indicates that a large portion of the ice on Dione was melted and resurfaced over time. This also implies that the moon’s surface is constantly coated with particles of ice from the E ring.

Saturn’s moon Ganymede

Despite being the largest moon in the Solar System, Ganymede is one of the few bodies in the solar system that lacks an atmosphere. In fact, the Voyager 1 spacecraft found no evidence of water on Ganymede until two decades later, when the Hubble Space Telescope detected a thin atmosphere that is mostly made of oxygen molecules. Scientists suspect that the atmosphere on Ganymede was formed when solar radiation and charged particles hit the icy surface of the moon. The charged particles broke up water molecules into lighter and heavier groups, with lighter hydrogen being quickly lost and heavier oxygen being clung to by gravity.

Researchers have long suspected that Ganymede has a liquid ocean under its icy surface. However, the Galileo mission found that the moon had an ocean beneath its rocky mantle. Several scientists have said that this evidence is not conclusive but suggests that water could have accumulated on Ganymede. Similarly, the Galileo spacecraft has found evidence of a saltwater ocean underground.

Exoplanet K2-18 b

We haven’t yet been able to determine exactly where the water on exoplanet K2-18b comes from, but planetary observations have shown that it has clouds. It has a 33-day orbit around a cool M3 dwarf, which means it gets the same amount of radiation from the Sun as Earth does. The presence of liquid water clouds on K2-18b could mean that there is water vapor on the planet.

The presence of water on exoplanet K2-18b has been posited by scientists in recent years. Earlier, researchers found evidence that the hydrogen-rich atmosphere on K2-18b may contain water vapor. However, there is still a huge question mark about whether water is habitable on the surface. And although the planet’s mass is large enough to support liquid rain, its surface temperature does not appear to be habitable.

The Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 was used to observe light from the planet’s star. Its data from the transits showed statistically significant evidence of water. Clouds are responsible for water’s presence in the spectra. Other gases detected in the spectrum included nitrogen and carbon dioxide. If water is present on the planet, scientists will now be able to study its atmosphere.

Mars ocean hypothesis

In the past, astronomers have hypothesized that Mars had an ocean that covered most of its northern lowlands 3.4 billion years ago. While there are few definitive paleoshoreline features, this hypothesis was backed by Mariner 9 images. A dramatic climate change, which was accelerated by volcanic eruptions, is one theory for the disappearance of water on Mars. MAVEN, the mission sent to monitor Mars’ upper atmosphere, determined that the planet lost water due to solar winds and a lack of a planetary magnetic field.

The Mars ocean hypothesis argues that the Martian planet was once covered with liquid water. The icy northern plains, which are the youngest portion of the planet’s surface, are covered in sparse cratering, suggesting a large ocean once existed there. This paleo-ocean, named the AMalacandrian Ocean or AOceanus Borealis, endured for most of the planet’s geologic history. In addition, water may have been absorbed into the planetary atmosphere or lost through atmospheric sputtering.

The Mars Global Surveyor (MSSS) camera has considerably higher resolution than Viking, and was designed to test the shorelines proposed in the scientific literature. The researchers found that the shoreline of Mars has a wide range of elevation. In addition, the slope of the shoreline rises and falls thousands of kilometers. The results of these studies have cast doubt on the long-ago sea coast. Nevertheless, this finding did not end the debate, and the concept of an ancient Martian ocean continues to grow.