An unmanned NASA spacecraft is about to make its deepest dive ever into the icy spray emanating from the underwater ocean on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus.
The tiny moon orbiting the sixth planet from the sun stunned scientists when they discovered it had an icy plume in 2005.
After years of observations, NASA announced earlier this year that Enceladus definitely has a subterranean ocean, widening the search for alien life in our solar system.
While the Cassini probe’s flyby on Wednesday will not be able to detect if there are life forms in the spray, scientists hope the close pass will give them new insight into the habitability of the extraterrestrial ocean.
“This daring flyby will bring the spacecraft within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of the surface of Enceladus’s south polar region,” NASA said in a statement.
“The encounter will allow Cassini to obtain the most accurate measurements yet of the plume’s composition, and new insights into the ocean world beneath the ice.”
The flyby should take place at 1522 GMT on Wednesday, though the scientific data it collects may not be published for months.
Scientists hope that the trip will tell them how much icy material is emanating from Enceladus, and perhaps what kinds of complex organic molecules it contains, though not with enough detail to determine if anything is alive.
The $3.26 billion mission is a joint project by the US space agency, European space agency and Italian space agency.
Cassini is the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, and it has been circling the planet since 2004.
It is making a series of flybys of Enceladus, including a final pass in December.
Trump supporter Steve Cortes loses it after Rick Wilson brings up war crimes prosecutions
The spokesperson for the "official" pro-Trump SuperPAC was admonished twice by an MSNBC anchor on Saturday night during a segment on impeachment that quickly went off the rails.
MSNBC anchor Joy Reid was anchoring a Saturday night special titled, "the impeachment trial of Donald Trump."
Her panel included Rick Wilson, the author of the bestselling 2018 book Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever and Steve Cortes, the spokesperson for America First PAC.
Wilson explained why Republican senators refuse to stand up to Trump.
China reports 323 new cases of mysterious virus — as death toll rises to 54
The number of confirmed deaths from a viral outbreak in China has risen to 54, with authorities in hard-hit Hubei province on Sunday reporting 13 more fatalities and 323 new cases.
The latest numbers from Hubei, the epicentre of the contagion, would put the nationwide total of confirmed infections at 1,610, based on figures previously released by the central government.
President Xi Jinping warned Saturday that China faced a "grave situation" as authorities raced to contain a respiratory illness that has caused the widespread abandonment of Lunar New Year celebrations nationwide and overwhelmed health facilities in Hubei.
California offers to reimburse Trump for abortions — but he has to free the women from non-disclosure agreements
The state of California is offering to reimburse President Donald Trump for any abortions he's paid for in the state, but there's a catch.
On Friday, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a "notice of violation" against the state for mandating universal abortion coverage in health insurance plans sold in the state, which the administration claims is "unlawful discrimination."
“Once again, President Trump’s administration is delivering on his promise to protect human life and all Americans’ freedom of conscience,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.