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article imageSaturn's moon hides an icy ocean

By Tim Sandle     Apr 5, 2014 in Science
A body of liquid water has been discovered beneath the surface of Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons. The tiny moon is a potentially hospitable home for extraterrestrial life.
Spotted by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which has been exploring Saturn and its moons since arriving there in 2004, scientists have detected liquid water beneath the icy outer surface of Saturn’s tiny moon, Enceladus. Enceladus is the sixth-largest moon of Saturn. Enceladus is a relatively small moon, with a mean diameter of 505 kilometers (314 miles), only one-seventh the diameter of Earth's own Moon.
NASA has mapped the gravitational field around the 300-mile-wide moon and found that a body of liquid water covering an area similar to that of Lake Superior lies beneath the ice at its south pole. Commenting further, David Stevenson, a professor of planetary science at CalTech, told the New York Times: "What we’ve done is put forth a strong case for an ocean."
As to why water is present, it seems that, as The Guardian reports, the gravitational forces that Enceladus experiences as it orbits Saturn and interacts with a neighboring moon, Dione, create friction and heat that melts some of its icy coat to produce liquid water.
The findings have been reported to the journal Science, in a paper titled "The Gravity Field and Interior Structure of Enceladus".
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