BBC News coverage: Scientists tell Nature magazine that the liquid water may reside in caverns just below the surface of the moon.
If confirmed, it is a stunning result. It means the Saturnian satellite may be one of the most promising places in the Solar System to search for signs of extraterrestrial life.
New interpretation of the Cassini spacecraft finding of water near Saturn’s moon Enceledus. According to Schneider, both his team and Kempf’s now agree that the jets of water vapor emanating from Enceladus’ jets shouldn’t be viewed as “near-surface geysers connected to an ocean” near the surface, as first proposed. The lack of sodium in the jets suggest that the jets arise from a gentle, gradual evaporation of water from a deep ocean rather than a more violent, geyser-like process from a liquid reservoir near the surface.
From 2005 to 2009, the Cassini spacecraft has found strong evidence that Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus has an ocean beneath its icy surface. If the liquid water finding is confirmed, it would suggest that the moon may be one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for signs of past or present extraterrestrial life.
Cassini flybys planned for the fall could glean more information on the ocean-geyser link.
The water and other key life ingredients such as organic material found in the plumes, could provide a suitable environment for life precursors, said lead researcher Frank Postberg of the Max-Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany.
Jupiter’s Europa, Ganymede and Callisto also are strong candidates for liquid oceans.
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