A frozen shell covers the ocean surface Saturn’s moon Enceladus. From time to time, cracks in the ice allow what lies beneath to escape – as jets of liquid, shot into space. This phenomenon could be hydrothermal activity.
In 2015 the spacecraft Cassini moved into the path of the liquid spout to analyse the chemicals and shed some light on the moon’s ocean. At the time scientists wanted to confirm if the spouts came from hydrothermal activity on the seafloor similar to the activity we have on Earth. It is here that many suspect life first evolved on our planet and could indicate Enceladus supports also.
“By following the trail of scientific breadcrumbs, Cassini eventually found that Enceladus harbors a global ocean of salty water under its icy crust, possibly with hydrothermal vents on its seafloor. The trail of clues that began with a puzzling magnetometer reading led to an understanding that the moon – and perhaps many small, icy moons like it throughout the cosmos – could potentially have the ingredients needed for life,” writes NASA.
In the video above The Verge explains what hydrothermal activity on Enceladus means and what is next for Cassini. Check it out.
Video credit: The Verge
Featured image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute