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About this Piece

A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA’s Cassini mission. Researchers found the magnitude of the moon’s very slight wobble, as it orbits Saturn, can only be accounted for if its outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior, meaning a global ocean must be present.

The finding implies the fine spray of water vapor, icy particles and simple organic molecules Cassini has observed coming from fractures near the moon’s south pole is being fed by this vast liquid water reservoir.

“In the ocean are many bright strands / and many dark strands like veins that are seen when a wing is lifted up. / Your hidden self is blood in those, those veins that are lute strings that make ocean music,
not the sad edge of surf / but the sound of no shore.” (From “The Diver’s Clothes Lying Empty,” version/translation by Coleman Barks of verses by Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī)

“There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, ‘Consume me.’” (Virginia Woolf, “The Waves”)

An ocean beyond earth (2016) is inspired by and dedicated in friendship to the cellist Séverine Ballon. I also acknowledge the influence of composer Bryn Harrison in some of the notational details of the work. —Liza Lim