Stunning discovery of water geysers
on a Saturn moon
(Top Posts - Science - 030906)

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Updated: 1:39 p.m. ET March 9, 2006

Liquid water on Saturn moon could support life

Cassini spacecraft sees signs of geysers on icy

By Alan Boyle, Science editor, MSNBC
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An enhanced-color view of the Saturnian
moon Enceladus, published on the cover
of the journal Science, highlights the dark
"tiger stripes" that appear to be the source
of cold water geysers.

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Scientists have found evidence that cold,
Yellowstone-like geysers of water are
issuing from a moon of Saturn called
Enceladus, apparently fueled by liquid
reservoirs that may lie just tens of yards
beneath the moon's icy surface.


Scientists described it as the most import-
ant discovery in planetary science in a


The readings from Enceladus' geyser
plumes indicate that all the prerequisites
for life as we know it could exist beneath
Enceladus' surface ...


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Image: Geysers

The white streaks in this image are backlit
geysers of water ice, rising hundreds of
miles into space from the dark disk of

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Commentary: Why Enceladus
discovery matters

By James Oberg
NBC News space analyst
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Let us drink from the fountains of

Geysers offer opportunity to obtain
scientific evidence on life

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NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute

Enceladus shines as a bright pearl
against the backdrop of Saturn and
its rings in this image taken by the
Cassini spacecraft in January. The
tiny moon is just 505 kilometers (314
miles) across.

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The discovery of active water geysers
on Saturn's moon Enceladus is exciting
on many levels.

It drives home the startling new recog-
nition that most of the oceans of the
solar system are not on Earth but are
on other worlds, all (so far as we know)
way out beyond the asteroid belt.

And it raises the tantalizing thought, al-
ready growing in intensity in the last
decade or two, that these oceans - just
like the deep oceans of Earth - may
not be the sterile, boring empty voids
scientists once thought.

We've been amazed by the teeming
biochemistry around deep ocean vents
on Earth, and this may be only a fore-
taste of future amazements when we
get access to otherworldly oceans.

Enceladus has now offered, on a space
platter, the easiest-so-far way to examine
directly the composition of such oceans.

We don't have to drill or melt our way
through a hundred miles of an outer ice
shell, as on Jupiter's moon Europa, or
fight our way down through and back up
through a thick atmosphere such as
found on Titan, Saturn's largest moon.


We can go out there to Enceladus and
pick up the samples in deep space, deliv-
ered conveniently by the geyser system
that appears to be driven by the same
heating process - gravitational flexing -
that created the Enceladus liquid water
pools in the first place.


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