Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, August 2, 2014

MVNews this week:  Page B:2



Mountain Views-News Saturday, August 2, 2014 

Cassini Reveals 101 Geysers on Icy Saturn Moon

Scientists using mission data from NASA’s 
Cassini spacecraft have identified 101 distinct 
geysers erupting on Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. 
Their analysis suggests it is possible for liquid 
water to reach from that moon’s underground sea 
all the way to its surface.

 These findings, and clues to what powers the 
geyser eruptions, are presented in two articles 
published in the current online edition of the 
Astronomical Journal.

 Over a period of almost seven years, Cassini’s 
cameras surveyed the south polar terrain of the 
small moon, a unique geological basin renowned 
for its four prominent “tiger stripe” fractures and 
the geysers of tiny icy particles and water vapor 
first sighted there nearly 10 years ago. The result of 
the survey is a map of 101 geysers, each erupting 
from one of the tiger stripe fractures, and the 
discovery that individual geysers are coincident 
with small hot spots. These relationships pointed 
the way to the geysers’ origin.

 After the first sighting of the geysers in 2005, 
scientists suspected that repeated flexing of 
Enceladus by Saturn’s tides as the moon orbits 
the planet had something to do with their 
behavior. One suggestion included the back-and-
forth rubbing of opposing walls of the fractures 
generating frictional heat that turned ice into 
geyser-forming vapor and liquid.

 Alternate views held that the opening and 
closing of the fractures allowed water vapor 
from below to reach the surface. Before this 
new study, it was not clear which process was 
the dominating influence. Nor was it certain 
whether excess heat emitted by Enceladus was 
everywhere correlated with geyser activity.

 To determine the surface locations of the 
geysers, researchers employed the same 
process of triangulation used historically to 
survey geological features on Earth, such as 
mountains. When the researchers compared 
the geysers’ locations with low-resolution 
maps of thermal emission, it became apparent 
the greatest geyser activity coincided with the 
greatest thermal radiation. Comparisons between 
the geysers and tidal stresses revealed similar 
connections. However, these correlations alone 
were insufficient to answer the question, “What 
produces what?”

 The answer to this mystery came from 
comparison of the survey results with high-
resolution data collected in 2010 by Cassini’s 
heat-sensing instruments. Individual geysers 
were found to coincide with small-scale hot 
spots, only a few dozen feet (or tens of meters) 
across, which were too small to be produced 
by frictional heating, but the right size to be 
the result of condensation of vapor on the near-
surface walls of the fractures. This immediately 
implicated the hot spots as the signature of the 
geysering process.

 “Once we had these results in hand, we knew 
right away heat was not causing the geysers, but 
vice versa,” said Carolyn Porco, leader of the 
Cassini imaging team from the Space Science 
Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and lead author 
of the first paper. “It also told us the geysers are 
not a near-surface phenomenon, but have much 
deeper roots.”

 Thanks to recent analysis of Cassini gravity 
data, the researchers concluded the only 
plausible source of the material forming the 
geysers is the sea now known to exist beneath 
the ice shell. They also found that narrow 
pathways through the ice shell can remain open 
from the sea all the way to the surface, if filled 
with liquid water.

You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@

THE OLIVE TREE – How to process olives for food, and make oil

By Christopher 

Olives have been 
valued since ancient 
times for their fruit 
and for their oil. 
evergreen olive 
trees were brought 
to North America 
from Europe and 
they have done quite well here. Because of this, 
they are widely planted in parks, along streets, 
on school campuses, and in housing complexes 
where a “California look” is desired. 

 When the mission system came into California, 
the native way of life was displaced, overrun, and 
largely destroyed as a functioning viable lifestyle. 
As part of the agricultural system brought by the 
missionaries from Spain, the so-called mission 
olives were brought here and planted at most of 
the missions. Other now-seemingly ubiquitous 
plants were the mission figs and the mission 

 Old olive trees, laden with their dark purple 
fruits, providing shade around the old missions, 
seemed to be the quintessential tree of California 
as mission era segued to ranch era.

 And olives are still very popular today as 
landscaping trees, dropping their olives for 
gardeners to rake up and discard. But rare is the 
person who realizes you can collect and eat these 
olives. They are olives, after all, and everyone 
sees cans of olives in the store but isn’t clear 
how to turn the olives that fall to the ground 
into something tasty. If you bite into a fresh raw 
olive that you’ve picked up from the ground, it’s 
astringent and not flavorful.

 How are they prepared? Is it hard to do? Is it 
safe to do?

 When I was growing up, our next door 
neighbor, Mrs. Yamada, would always process 
her own olives from a tree in their backyard and 
from olives they collected from local trees. She 
used the lye process, and kept a five gallon crock 
in her cellar where she did the processing. Once, 
when I was about 13, she took me down there to 
show me the crock full of olives. It was interesting, 
but I didn’t learn how to process them just by 
looking at a crock full of olives. In time, I learned 
that there are many ways to process olives.

 The lye solution is one of the most common 
ways to process olives. Yes, the same lye that you 
could use to help open clogged drains, which you 
need to wear gloves if you use it because the lye 
is so caustic. In fact, many cans of lye say right on 
their labels how you can use it to process olives. 
I have processed olives with lye many times, but 
never liked using such a dangerous product in 
order to produce an edible food. Weren’t olives 
commonly used in the Middle East and much of 
Europe centuries ago? Would they have used lye, 
I wondered?

 It turned out that peoples of the past processed 
their olives using only salt. Today, I no longer use 
lye for processing olives, but instead buy a few 
boxes of table salt. Here is an example of what I 

 I select olives that are not bruised. Once I 
collect the olives, I wash them. Sometimes – but 
not always – I pit the olives using an olive-pitter, 
a device which is not common. I generally try 
to process as many olives as possible because 
it takes the same amount of work and time to 
process a cup of olives as it does to process five 
gallons. In general, I end up with about a gallon 
of olives each time I process. I select olives that 
are not bruised.

 I put them into a container, which is usually 
plastic or glass, depending on what is handy. For 
a gallon container, I will dissolve one full (round) 
box of 26 ounces of salt in water and pour it over 
the olives. This is a very salty brine, and I just 
let the bucket sit for about two weeks. I place a 
cheesecloth cover over the bucket to keep out 
bugs or dirt.

 After the two weeks, I pour off the water, rinse 
it, and then add water in which only a half box of 
salt has been dissolved, and this time let it set for 
just a week. At this point, you can begin to taste 
the fruits to see if they are ok to eat. Generally, I 
do at least one more weak brine solution before 
they are ready to eat. Then I pack them into 
glass jars with a little salt, some garlic and other 
seasonings, and refrigerate them. They seem to 
last for years this way since I have had some that 
were over 10 years old and were still good.

 Of course, if you don’t want to refrigerate, you 
need to do proper canning, and there are several 
books and classes which will teach you how to do 
that safely.

 What I learned about processing olives came 
from seeing what other people did, asking a lot 
of questions, and trial and error. One of the best 
sources of information on the home processing 
of olives is a pamphlet called “Home Pickling of 
Olives” published by University of California, 
Cooperative Extension, Berkeley, CA 94720.


 How about olive oil? Before I knew how to 
make olive oil, I figured that it couldn’t be all 
that complicated because people in the ancient 
world figured it out. Since all of the literature I 
had collected told me how to process the olives, 
but not how to make olive oil, I began by asking 
the olive oil vendors at farmers markets. I would 
just simply ask, “How do you make your oil?” 
Surprisingly to me, they all just smiled but were 
not forthcoming in their methods of processing. 
I assumed that this was because there were some 
mysterious proprietary secrets to doing this. 
Nothing could be further from the truth.

 Eventually, I learned that though the details 
vary, and the manner of pressing varies, to make 
olive oil you simply crush the olives so that the oil 
is expressed. You collect the oil and let it settle. 
Once it has settled, you can readily filter out any 
dirt and any water. That’s all there is to it!

 The first time I processed a batch of olive oil, 
I used an Acme food processor and juicer. My 
friend David Arzouman and I first decided to 
remove the pits from each olive. Obviously, in 
commercial operations, this is not done because 
it’s time consuming, tedious, and simply not 
necessary. But we felt we should do it for our 
small experiment. 

 We carefully packed the olive pulp into a large 
cloth container, and then put it back into the 
processor and turned it on so that it began to press 
on the pulp. We did this slowly and eventually 
a clear liquid flowed from the machine. We 
collected about two cups of pure olive oil, and 
discarded the pulp.

 We let our oil settle in a glass jar. Within an 
hour or so, a little debris was floating on the top, 
which we easily removed. On the bottom was a 
little water. So, what naturally happens is that the 
oil and water separate. We carefully divided the 
clear pure oil into two containers so we could 
both take some home to use. It had a remarkably 
clean flavor. It was subtle, and very good, and 
went well with salad dressing and sautéing eggs. 
Both David and I found it to be the best olive oil 
we’ve ever had.

 Apparently, there are different grades of olive 
oil in the normal world of commerce: Extra 
virgin, virgin, and just olive oil. Within each of 
these three grades can be found several types. 
The extra virgin and virgin olive oil is the first 
pressing of the olives and no heat or chemicals 
are applied. The extra virgin is ideally suited 
for use raw, such as in salads, and must have an 
acidity level of less than 0.225%. The virgin olive 
oil is ok for cooking, and its acidity level must be 
below 2%. Other olive oils that have an acid level 
of 3.3% or more are further refined with heat and 
chemicals. This is sometimes called refined oil.

 So, the pure clean oil that David and I produced 
would be considered extra virgin olive oil, the 
very best!

 The common olive is a member of the Olive 
Family (Oleaceae). This family contains about 
25 genera and 900 species world-wide. Although 
the genus Olea contains 20 species, only Olea 
europaea occurs in the wild in California. Others 
may be found in cultivation.

 [Nyerges is the author of “Guide to Wild Foods,” 
“Foraging California,” “Extreme Simplicity,” and 
other books. He has been teaching about wild foods 
and self-reliance since 1974. He can be reached at 
School of Self-Reliance, Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 
90041, or]