This week in science: that's no moon!

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Artist's cutaway concept of an underground ocean of liquid water on Enceladus. moon of Saturn.

An artist’s concept Enceladus with southern hemisphere cryovolcanic geysers as observed by Cassini and interior showing suspected underground ocean of warm liquid water.

Saturn is the celebrity of our solar system, a cosmic show-off with its dazzling golden rings. It appears to be a violent place today and that’s nothing new. Long ago, Saturn may have helped hurl Neptune and Uranus farther out, into higher, more distant orbits, the realm of primeval comets, which unleashed a barrage lasting hundreds of millions of years that smacked around every world in the system, bringing loads of life-giving water to Earth in the process. But planetary astronomers are finding the present-day moons of the wan yellow gas giant are as exciting as any other feature, past or present. One in particular might literally have the right stuff:

An ocean at least as large as Lake Superior lies below a thick layer of ice on a moon of Saturn, new data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft suggests.
The results, published in the journal Science, support earlier signs that this small moon has liquid water. That means Saturn’s sixth-largest moon could have been — or could now be — hospitable to life.

  • If criminal justice and crime scene investigation is a science and Fort Hood a painful lesson, conservative Texas politicians would be flunking out right and left far right.
  • Then again facts have a well-known leftist bias and wingnuts have a well-known bias against facts. Especially when it’s hard data they don’t like.
  • This week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released part two of its grim report. But Republicans have a tried and true solution to climate change: pass a new law making it illegal for NOAA climate researchers to learn more about it!
  • Justice has finally caught up with a notorious industrial polluter extraordinaire to the tune of $5.15 billion in fines and fees:

    The Justice Department said Kerr-McGee, founded in 1929, left behind a long legacy of environmental contamination: polluting Lake Mead in Nevada with rocket fuel, leaving behind radioactive waste piles throughout the territory of the Navajo Nation and dumping carcinogenic creosote in communities throughout the U.S. East, Midwest and South at its wood-treating facilities.

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