The Breakthrough

By measuring with exquisite precision the tiny wobbles of Saturn's moon Enceladus – whose cosmic quavers are detectable only in high-resolution images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft – Cornell University researchers have learned that a global ocean lies beneath the moon's thick icy crust. The geologically diverse Enceladus vigorously vents vapor and liquid water from fractures in its icy crust at its south polar region, as discovered early in Cassini's exploration of the Saturn system.

The Implications

"This is a major step beyond what we understood about this moon before, and it demonstrates the kind of deep-dive discoveries we can make with long-lived orbiter missions to other planets," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at Space Science Institute in Boulder. "Cassini has been exemplary in this regard."


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