Saturn’s moons are full of surprises, and a team of researchers monitoring the Cassini spacecraft think that a body of water the size of Lake Superior is one of them. The lake is hiding beneath the surface of the icy moon Enceladus. And it may be the best place to find alien life in our solar system.
Enceladus, famous for sending supersonic plumes into space, has long fascinated astronomers. (Jupiter’s moon Europa also spews plumes of water .) The first clues that a lake might be hiding under its surface emerged in 2005 when Cassini discovered the water jets. However, new gravitational field measurements appear to confirm the presence of a six-mile-deep saltwater lake 22 miles under the moon’s south pole. If it is indeed a lake, it would be a terrific place to find extraterrestrial life, as the surrounding rock would pump minerals like potassium, sulphur and phosphorus into the water. Those are all minerals needed to support life.
To know for sure, we’ll probably have to go to Saturn. Aside from the hope of finding life, Enceladus is a particularly appealing moon to visit because we could simply fly through the plumes and grab samples to find out what’s in the water. Who knew hunting aliens could be so much fun? [Science via New Scientist]