06 July 2007

Space Sponge

The Cassini probe has already provided a wealth of stunning images of Saturn and its satellites. One of the most unusual is the planet’s eighth largest moon, Hyperion looks like a huge potato-shaped sponge. It is unlike any other object imaged to date. The appearance is due to the fact that it is peppered with largely well preserved craters, probably caused by meteor bombardment which blew part of its surface away.

A paper published in Nature yesterday states that a Cassini flyby in September 2005 revealed the presence of hydrocarbons in the craters as well as water and carbon dioxide ices. "Of special interest is the presence on Hyperion of hydrocarbons " said Dale Cruikshank, the paper's lead author. "These molecules, when embedded in ice and exposed to ultraviolet light, form new molecules of biological significance. This doesn't mean that we have found life, but it is a further indication that the basic chemistry needed for life is widespread in the universe.... Most of Hyperion's surface ice is a mix of frozen water and organic dust, but carbon dioxide ice is also prominent. The carbon dioxide is not pure, but is somehow chemically attached to other molecules," explained Cruikshank.

Maybe this is not earth shattering stuff but still it is quite interesting.


Anonymous said...

It's Planet Spudulike!

jams o donnell said...

LOL perhaps the next probe to Hyperion should be the Maris Piper Express

elasticwaistbandlady said...

I'm changing my name to Hyperion since I too have a huge potato shaped body and an appearance peppered by craters. The curse of genetic passing down of large pores!

jams o donnell said...

Err I'm sure you you do yourself down! I should call myself King Edward.. for the sadly obvious reasons (sighs)