Sciency Words: Decouple

Sciency Words BIO copy

Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Each week, we take a closer look at an interesting science or science-related term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s term is:

DECOUPLE

After years of speculation, last September we finally learned the truth. Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, has a decoupled crust.

Ap04 Enceladus Decoupled

Sorry, Enceladus. I meant no offense. In fact, having a decoupled crust might be a good thing.

We’ve known for some time now that there is liquid water somewhere beneath Enceladus’s surface. Some of that water periodically spurts out of geysers located near the moon’s south pole. You can see this happening in the totally legit Hubble image of Enceladus above.

The big question: how much liquid water is there? Are we talking about a modest subsurface lake near the south pole…

Ap04 Enceladus Subsurface Lake

… or does Enceladus have a vast global ocean hidden beneath its surface? You know, the kind of environment that might support life.

Ap04 Enceladus Subsurface Ocean

By carefully observing Enceladus as it orbits Saturn, astronomers noticed that the moon appears to wobble more than it should. The best explanation for this: the moon’s crust is not attached to anything solid. It floats freely atop a layer of liquid. Enceladus’s crust is—to use the technical term—decoupled from the moon’s rocky interior.

That’s pretty compelling evidence for a global subsurface ocean, and while it doesn’t prove that Enceladus supports life, it does make the possibility a whole lot more likely.

Or does it? Let me check on that for Monday’s post.

* * *

Alternative definition of decouple: to remove any couples from a party or similar social event, leaving all the single gents and ladies free to mingle.

4 Responses to Sciency Words: Decouple

  1. Decoupled is an interesting concept. Given the molten layers or rock that exist at various Earth layers, I wonder if we could consider Earth’s crust to be decoupled at some point. Or do the unique properties of liquid water (as opposed to liquid rock) make a difference?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Spacer Guy says:

    Its had to say whats going on, the planetoid realy is very far away. Its all just a matter of rocks waterr and steam however once you kick in with some melting Earth crusts, you could be talking new life forms!

    Like

  3. […] recently determined that Enceladus has a decoupled crust, meaning there is a global ocean of liquid water hidden beneath this tiny moon’s surface. Just […]

    Like

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