Saturn’s Largest Moon Shows Signs of Life-Supporting Hydrothermal Activity

posted: 03/12/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
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This cutaway view of Saturn's moon Enceladus is an artist's rendering that depicts possible hydrothermal activity that may be taking place.

From Discovery News

Saturn's icy moon Enceladus is showing definite signs of hydrothermal activity -- similar activity that is found along deep sea vents on Earth where water is heated and minerals are formed. Known to have a sub-surface ocean of salty water, the new findings described in two recent papers have boosted the moon's life-giving potential.

"These findings add to the possibility that Enceladus, which contains a subsurface ocean and displays remarkable geologic activity, could contain environments suitable for living organisms," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington D.C. "The locations in our solar system where extreme environments occur in which life might exist may bring us closer to answering the question: are we alone in the universe."

Enceladus is already known for its famous geysers blasting water vapor from beneath the moon's icy crust. Long fractures in the moon's south pole allow liquid water to escape into space, a sure sign that some kind of heating process is going on deep inside the icy world.

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