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Saturn's Moon Enceladus Has a Warm Ocean, May Have Life

Stashed in: The Universe, Awesome, NASA, Space!, SETI, Explain Like I'm Five

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Holy smokes, this sounds legit!

Move over, Europa. It looks as though the most life-friendly habitat ever discovered outside of Earth is Enceladus—Saturn's sixth-largest moon.

Astrophysicists working with NASA's Saturn sweeping Cassini spacecraft have just announced that Enceladus has a warm ocean at its southern pole with ongoing hydrothermal activity—the first ever discovered outside of Earth. This new research, published in the journal Nature, builds upon last year's discovery of the moon's 6-mile-deep ocean, which is also believed to contain many of the chemicals commonly associated with life.

"We now have very strong evidence that there is a hot hydrothermal environment at the base of Enceladus's ocean, perhaps like those where we believe life began on Earth," says Jonathan Lunine, a planetary scientist at Cornell University who works with the Cassini spacecraft but was not involved in the new research. "This is yet another discovery in a series of really remarkable findings that have come one by one, to tell us that this may be the place to go look for life in the outer solar system."

Top Reddit comment:

"With temperate, vent-warmed waters that contain nitrogen, methane, carbon dioxide, and various other chemicals required for Earth-like life, Enceladus could very much look like the Lost City hydrothermal field under the Atlantic Ocean—an environment where many scientists believe life first originated on Earth."


Explain Like I'm Five how they know this:

Cassini has been in orbit about Saturn since 2004, it was the first to discover and image Enceladus's "tiger stripes", the surface features corresponding to the vent openings.

Cassini has several chemistry experiments onboard which have been able to detect the listed chemicals in Enceladus's plume, and tracking of its orbal velocity during flybys of Enceladus has provided us with evidence of a low density (water is less dense than rock) region centered on the south pole.

I'd prefer a "may", assertions like that is more clickbait than science.

I heard there's a project of a submarine space probe to go explore that ocean, maybe they'll have more arguments to do it now.

Ok I changed the title. It came from Popular Mechanics, hence the use of the wrong word.

Submarine space probe sounds super cool!

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