Friday, March 10, 2006


With newly discovered signs of liquid water, a moon of Saturn joins the small, highly select group of places in the solar system that could plausibly support life.

The moon, Enceladus, is only 300 miles wide, and usually something that small is nothing more than a frozen chunk of ice and rock. Instead, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spotted eruptions of icy crystals, which hint at pockets of liquid water near the surface.

"It's startling," said Carolyn C. Porco of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., leader of the imaging team for Cassini. Nine scientific papers about Enceladus (pronounced en-SELL-ah-dus), appear in today's issue of Science. "I wouldn't be surprised to see the planetary community clamoring for a future exploratory expedition to land on the south polar terrain of Enceladus," said Dr. Porco, lead author of one of the papers. "We have found an environment that is potentially suitable for living organisms."

more: New York Times

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