Filed under: Astronomy, Bad Astronomy, Cassini, Enceladus, Health, NASA, Phil Plait, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Saturn, Science, Science Fiction, Space, Titan
Gah. I am either having a relapse of the very stubborn flu that had me laid low last month, or am fighting some new bug with similar (yet still considerably less severe) symptoms. This is highly annoying.
Note one: downloads of the .pdf of Communion of Dreams have crossed 8,200 and downloads of the audio version continue to climb as well. That’s exciting.
Note two: heard nothing yet from the agent I mentioned contacting the other day. No surprise – I expect that it will take a month or so to hear from them. But I needed something else to note.
Now, about the news from space . . .
I have written previously about the Cassini probe’s 10 year mission to Saturn, and how there have been a lot of great images and information coming back to scientists about that planet and its moons. Information that helps to confirm what we knew when I was first writing Communion (since most of the action of the book takes place on and around Titan.) But there is news which would potentially require me to revise the novel slightly – not about Titan, but about its sibling Enceladus. You may have heard something about this, but I’ll go to the Bad Astro Boy himself for the news:
A few days ago I wrote about how the Cassini Saturn probe dove through water ice plumes erupting from the surface of the icy moon Enceladus. The pictures were incredible, but it may very well be that the other detectors got the big payoff.
They detected organic compounds in the plumes.
Now remember, organic molecules don’t necessarily mean life. What Cassini detected were heavy carbon-based molecules, including many that are the building blocks for making things like amino acids and other compounds necessary for life as we know it.
Edited to add: Carolyn Porco, imaging team leader for Cassini, says:
[…] it is now unambiguous that the jets emerging from the south polar fractures contain organic materials heavier than simple methane — acetylene, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, propane, etc. — making the sub-surface sources of Enceladus’ dramatic geological activity beyond doubt rich in astrobiologically interesting materials.
Whoa. I mean, *whoa* . Seriously. It ain’t life, nor even proof of life – but it is *damned exciting*.
Now, a nap. All this excitement makes me tired.
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