By Jonathan Amos
Saturn’s ice-crusted moon Enceladus may now be the single best place to go to look for life beyond Earth.
The assessment comes on the heels of new observations at the 500km-wide world made by the Cassini probe.
It has flown through and sampled the waters from a subsurface ocean that is being jetted into space.
Cassini’s chemistry analysis strongly suggests the Enceladean seafloor has hot fluid vents – places that on Earth are known to teem with life.
To be clear: the existence of such hydrothermal systems is not a guarantee that organisms are present on the little moon; its environment may still be sterile. But the new results make a compelling case to return to this world with more sophisticated instrumentation – technologies that can re-sample the ejected water for clear evidence that biology is also at play.
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