New studies support the possibility of sea life on Enceladus

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spotted geysers on the surface of
Saturn’s moon Enceladus ten years ago. And new research suggests that
these geysers are caused by active hydrothermal vents at the bottom of
the moon’s ice-covered sea–vents that potentially warm the water to a
temperature that could sustain life.

Artist's impression of Cassini in orbit around Saturn. (Credit: NASA)

After the geysers were spotted, researchers were able to determine
that water ice was being spewed by these geysers. Then, using the Cosmic
Dust Analyzer aboard Cassini, scientists concluded that the geyser
spray contains ice crystals and fine silica dust. Recent tests reveal
that the only way these fine rock particles can form is through a
mineral interaction with alkaline water at a temperature of at least 194
degrees Fahrenheit, which also has a salinity of four percent or less. NBC News
space writer Alan Boyle points out, “Those just happen to be the
conditions that exist at a field of hydrothermal vents on the bottom of
the Atlantic Ocean, known as the Lost City, where volcanically heated
water makes it possible for weird types of life to survive in a sunless

Although other processes could explain the geysers observed by
Cassini, scientists believe Earthlike volcanic vents are the best
explanation. And scientists note that this is the first time active
hydrothermal vents have been seen outside of Earth’s seafloor.

Illustration showing geysers on Enceladus. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)