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Enceladus is one of the moons of Saturn. Its surface is mostly covered by fresh, clean ice. Thanks to several close flybys of Enceladus, the Cassini spacecraft discovered water-rich plumes originating mainly from the south polar region. Analysing the data collected by Cassini on these geyser-like jets of water vapor, scientists at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI; San Antonio, Texas) were able to model the chemical processes ocurring in the subsurface ocean of the moon. These studies suggested the possibility that life can be supported in the subsurface ocean of liquid water in the form of diverse microbial community. The model is an artist representation of Enceladus and shows a clipped view of the moon’s interior. The cross-section summarizes the processes SwRI scientists modeled and that may be enough for creating the conditions for potential life in the ocean.
Credits: INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo. Cross-section image of Enceladus: SwRI