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Saturn's Moon Enceladus May Potentially Host Alien Life With The Discovery Of Ocean Beneath Its Surface

First Posted: Mar 17, 2017 04:37 AM EDT
Saturn's Moon: Enceladus Rotation
Cassini spacecraft sees ocean under the icy shell of Saturn's moon Enceladus.
(Photo : Kurdistan Planetarium/YouTube screenshot)

NASA's Cassini spacecraft spotted an ocean just a few miles beneath the icy shell of Saturn's moon Enceladus. This indicates that it may potentially host an alien life just like Jupiter's moon Europa that also has an ocean under its surface, according to astrobiologists.

Nicolas Altobelli, who was not involved in the study and the European Space Agency's (ESA) project scientist for the Cassini-Huygens Mission, stated that with this find, it opens to new perspectives to examine the rise of habitable conditions on the icy moons of the gas giant planets. He further said that if Enceladus underground ocean is near to the surface as the study suggests, then a future mission to this moon with an ice-penetrating radar sounding instrument could identify it.

In the study, which was published in the journal Nature Astronomy on March 13, 2017, the team examined the observations made by Cassini during its flyby in 2011 using a radar instrument. The data indicate that the temperatures just a few meters below the surface are between minus 350 degrees Fahrenheit and minus 370 degrees Fahrenheit, which are extremely cold. The researchers said that this thermal irregularity indicates that the ice shell of Enceladus is quite thin and around the south pole, probably about 4.2 miles thick in places, according to Scientific American.

This new study confirmed with the previous 2016 study indicating the average depth for the ice shell of 11 to 14 miles and a thickness of fewer than 3 miles at the south pole. Linda Spilker, a Cassini Project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said these findings of temperatures close to three sedentary higher than those outside them could contribute to the interest of Enceladus. She further said that what its underground sea really like and if life might evolve there, these remain to be resolved by the coming missions, as noted by Science Daily.

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