Saturn Moon May Hide Underground Ocean

Salt water ice spewing out from under the surface
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2011 2:46 PM CDT
This image provided by NASA of Saturn's moon Enceladus was made by the Casini spacecraft during a fly-by on Aug. 11, 2008.   (AP Photo/NASA)

(Newser) – Saturn’s moon Enceladus is spewing what appears to be chunks of ice composed of salt-water vapor out of fractures in its southern pole, leading scientists to believe there may be a massive ocean lurking beneath its surface. The plumes were first discovered by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft some time ago, but new measurements taken in 2008 and 2009 indicate they are much saltier than it seemed at first, the Washington Post reports.

The study’s lead author says there’s “no plausible way” to produce that salt unless there’s water under the surface. “Enceladus is a tiny, icy moon located in a region of the outer solar system where no liquid water was expected to exist because of its large distance from the sun,” another scientist explains. “This finding is therefore a crucial new piece of evidence” showing that life-supporting conditions could exist even on the icy moons of distant gas giants.

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