A small moon orbiting just outside Saturn’s rings has been added to the growing list of places beyond Earth that have oceans and prospects for hosting life.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took measurements showing the moon, known as Enceladus, has an underground ocean in the south believed to be five times the size of Italy’s Lake Garda.
Computer models show the ocean is probably sandwiched between Enceladus’s rocky core and its ice-covered surface, according to space experts.
Enceladus, which is only about 500 kilometers in diameter,joins Saturn’s large moon Titan and Europa, a much larger moon that orbits Jupiter on the list of places beyond Earth that may contain oceans.
The prospect of water, close enough to rock to leach out minerals means Enceladus may have the chemistry needed to support life.
Scientists are working on follow-on missions to find that life more than a billion kilometers from Earth.