Scientists find a 300 mile-wide moon of Saturn has hot water under its icy crust, raising the possibility that it may host life. Jim Drury reports.
This small moon orbiting Saturn could host life, according to NASA scientists. Enceladus is only 30 miles wide. But research suggests it possesses a large ocean containing hot water under its icy crust. The findings are the result of gravity measurements taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. SOUNDBITE (JAPANESE) ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF UNIVERSITY OF TOKYO, YASUHITO SEKINE, SAYING: "It's very rare that liquid water and heat exist at the same time and have strong chemical reactions between them; it has never been found in any places in the universe other than Earth." Silica nanoparticles were found in dust Cassini caught in space above the moon after it erupted off its surface. University of Tokyo Associate Professor Yasuhito Sekine, analysed them. He's not sure what causes the warmth, but thinks the water might be sustained by tidal heat from gravitational tugging by Saturn and its sister moons. He says some form of alien life could possibly be sustained on Enceladus. SOUNDBITE (JAPANESE) ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF UNIVERSITY OF TOKYO, YASUHITO SEKINE, SAYING: "We knew that Mars might have had liquid ocean and heat in the past, but now it's a cold and dry planet. But the Saturn moon, Enceladus, has liquid water and heat reacting to each other, which is a new discovery that raises the possibility that there may be living organisms." A follow-up mission to Enceladus is planned, but it will take decades for scientists to collect potential evidence of life.