Saturn's Moon Enceladus Is Home to a Global Ocean

The view from Saturn

July 19, 201300:30

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By Keith Wagstaff

Saturn's moon Enceladus is home to a global ocean hidden under its icy exterior, according to a new study.

Previous research indicated a sea hidden below the south pole, but now scientists believe the body of water extends across the entire moon.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Using data gathered by NASA's Casini spacecraft, researchers noticed that Enceladus wobbled in a certain way as it orbited Saturn. That wobble indicated that the moon's icy crust didn't extend all the way to its core — instead, it rested on a global ocean, the researchers concluded.

Their work was published this week in the journal Icarus.

"This was a hard problem that required years of observations, and calculations involving a diverse collection of disciplines, but we are confident we finally got it right," Peter Thomas, lead author of the study and a Cassini imaging team member at Cornell University, said in a statement.

The view from Saturn

July 19, 201300:30

Earlier this year, several studies suggested that Enceladus has active underwater hydrothermal vents near its south pole, which could theoretically heat the water enough to sustain life.