25 February 2010

Enceladus Excites: Liquid Water On Saturn's Moon May Support Life

Enceladus: Nasa spacecraft records dramatic pictures of Saturn's moon 'spitting'

The space agency’s Cassini spacecraft fly-by has captured new evidence that Saturn's sixth-largest moon is “bursting at the seams”.

The pictures, taken about 1,000 miles from the moon's surface, a forest of more than 30 individual icy plumes of water – including 20 that have never been recorded – can be seen erupting, or “spitting”, from fractures around its southern pole surface.

The images, taken last November and released by the agency on Wednesday, have left Nasa scientists “astounded” and could provide further clues that life exists on the moon.

Astronomers, who hope the latest data it could further unlock the moon’s mysterious secrets, have concluded that the planet is “one of the most exciting places we've found in the solar system”.

"Enceladus continues to astound," said Bob Pappalardo, of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “With each Cassini fly-by, we learn more about its extreme activity and what makes this strange moon tick.”

Earlier this month Nasa scientists discovered more evidence that liquid water lies beneath the surface. If there is liquid water on Enceladus, they believe it could have the conditions necessary to sustain life.

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