Discovering A Salt Water Moon

America’s unmanned space probes continue to do amazing things — including discovering that one of Saturn’s moon has salt water oceans like those on Earth.

The discovery was made by the Cassini spacecraft, which has been flying around the huge gas giant and its famous rings.  Cassini reached a point within 46 miles of the south pole of ice-covered Enceladus, one of Saturn’s many moons, and on its close pass Cassini actually flew through the jets of water vapor and ice that make up the geysers emanating from the moon.  In so doing, the probe “tasted” the vapor and determined that it consists of water, organic compounds, and salt, at the same salinity levels as Earth’s oceans.

The evidence suggests that there are liquid oceans underneath Enceladus’ icy crust, and that the water may be in contact with the moon’s rocky core — which could be supplying the chemical compounds that are the building blocks of life.  This discovery makes Enceladus a prime candidate for another mission designed to determine whether life in some form actually exists on the moon.  We’ll just have to hope that we can find the money necessary to fund the mission that will follow up on this very intriguing discovery.


Happy April Fool’s Day (No Kidding)

Be careful when tapping salt onto your eggs this morning, or drinking something fetched for you by another:  it’s April Fool’s Day, and the prankster in your family might have loosened the cap on the salt shaker or spiked your drink with lemon juice in order to get a chuckle at your expense.

How did April Fool’s Day come to be?  Even though it’s been around for centuries, nobody knows for sure.  Some say it dates back to the date in 1582 when, by order of the Pope, the Julian calendar was replaced with the Gregorian calendar, and as a result the traditional New Year’s Day, on April 1, was replaced by New Year’s Day on January 1.  Some rustic types supposedly didn’t get the news and made fools of themselves by celebrating New Year’s Day three months too late, and the tradition of playing pranks on the gullible began.  Others say it started with the Roman Emperor Constantine, who appointed one of his court fools Emperor for a day, or just reflects the general high spirits that come with the end of winter and the hope of spring.

Whatever the origin, April Fool’s Day is celebrated around the world.  I particularly like the French variation, where the target of a prank is called an “April fish” — to reflect the fact that April fish are young fish that are easily hooked.

Kish is on the road today, so I’ve got nobody to fool except the dogs.  April Fool’s Day pranks on dogs don’t seem very sporting.  At some point today, however, I am going to ask Penny if the refrigerator is running.