by on Wednesday Jun 24 2009
A report published in the science journal Nature, of results from the Cassini probe, indicate the discovery of the existence of liquid water on Saturn's moon Enceladus, and with it the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
Analysis of ice particles once thought to be emitted by geysers from the moon revealed the presence of sodium salt in the ice. As on earth the most plausible explanation of the presence of salt water, is the prolonged contact of liquid water with mineral bearing rocks.
Our present understanding of life requires the presence of three elements, the existence of complex organic molecules, liquid water and a source of energy. All three appear to be present on Enceladus.
The once theorised possibilty of discovering a global ocean have receded, to be replaced by one model of large subterranean caverns with large pools or lakes of water, created by tidal forces acting upon Enceladus, and it is from these mist filled caverns that the water evaporates into the atmosphere in a steady jet. However until further flybys and missions can be carried out other mechanisms for the presence of salt water ice cannot yet be ruled out.