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Liquid water discovered on Enceladus
Posted: Fri, Mar 10, 2006, 7:37 AM ET (1237 GMT)
Enceladus seen by Cassini (NASA/JPL) Data from NASA's Cassini mission has revealed that Saturn's icy moon Enceladus may have subsurface reservoirs of liquid water, a finding that raises speculation about the potential for life. In Friday's issue of the journal Science, scientists reported the discovery of geysers erupting from the moon's surface. Modeling of the plumes suggests that they are most likely ties to pockets of liquid water just tens of meters below the surface. The heating source that supports the liquid water and powers the geysers is unclear: tidal heating, which creates the liquid water oceans thought to exist below the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa, is insufficient to work on Enceladus. The discovery of liquid water, tied with previous detections of organic compounds, raises the possibility that the moon's interior could harbor life, although there is no means for Cassini to determine if it exists. Cassini's next close flyby of Enceladus, the next opportunity to study the geysers in detail, won't come until 2008. The announcement came after rumors earlier in the day that NASA would make a "huge announcement" about the discovery of life in the solar system.
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