February 7, 2008
This graphic shows how the ice particles and water vapor observed spewing from geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus may be related to liquid water beneath the surface. The large number of ice particles and the rate at which they are produced require high temperatures, close to the melting point of water. These warm temperatures indicate that there may be an internal lake of liquid water at or near the moon's south pole, where the geysers are present.
This internal lake could be similar to Earth's Lake Vostok, where liquid water is locked in ice beneath Antarctica. The presence of liquid water inside Enceladus would have major implications for future studies of the possibility of life in the outer solar system.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/.
Image credit: NASA/JPL