Deep Sea Diving on Enceladus

One thing science agrees upon – life as we know it couldn’t exist without water. A perfect storm of cosmic happenstance providing the watery depths “life” needed to take root. Millions upon millions of years simmering below the surface – diversifying, specializing, evolving – a watery lab imperative for life’s first twitch.

In 1997 the Cassini mission set off to study Saturn – primary objectives were better understanding of Saturn’s rings and exploration of her largest moon – Titan. Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus ruffled scientific eyebrows when Cassini photographed active eruptions of icy vapor along fractures in the south pole and dubbed them “tiger stripes”.

Suspecting Enceladus might be hiding a liquid ocean, gravitational pull was studied as a means to understand the mass. The “tiger stripes” region of Enceladus’s south pole didn’t match in relation to the rest of the moon – the only plausible explanation for missing mass – a body of liquid, believed to churn 50 Km. below the surface.

Pondering proof of liquid oceans miles below the surface of a distant frozen moon, plasters a grin on my face. Life requires water – what it does after that is anyone’s guess. Extremophiles eek out an existence in earthly places toxic or impossible for higher life forms to thrive. Arctic ice, underwater thermal vents, pockets of underground methane gas – all contain organisms known as extremophiles. I see no reason why a sub surface ocean on Enceladus couldn’t do the same.

Heat “output” beneath Enceladus south pole.

A link to Extremophiles…..