By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
Researchers recently discovered a large body of water deep under Earth’s crust, and apparently, our home planet isn’t the only place in the Solar System hiding oceans beneath the surface. According to new research, Saturn’s sixth-largest moon, Enceladus, has a reservoir deep below its rocky outer layer, and it could be home to life.
Scientists used NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to investigate why there are large differences between the moon’s north and south poles. See, the north pole is filled with bumpy craters and has a 30 mile-thick sheet of ice sitting on top of a thick slab of rock. The south pole, on the other hand, has a much thinner ice sheet that’s super smooth.
What can account for such a great difference between the two? Well, according to the study, the southern ice isn’t sitting on a layer of rock. Instead, it’s covering an ocean of water that’s over 18 miles deep and about as big as North America’s mega Lake Superior (which covers 31,700 square miles). Also, the body of liquid seems to have an ocean floor made of a rocky material called silicate. If this is true, then the underground ocean may have the right molecules necessary to make life!
Unfortunately, NASA can’t quite get a detailed look yet, because Cassini doesn’t contain the necessary equipment to analyze water vapor rising up through ice fractures. If a spacecraft with the right gear does get a closer peek, we just might find the evidence needed to prove life exists beyond Earth!
Featured image courtesy of NASA.