NASA scientists found a global ocean on one of Saturn’s moon named Enceladus, according to data received from the Cassini mission. The spacecraft, launched in 1997, has been orbiting Enceladus since 2004, and it has shown promising information regarding the existence of water lying beneath the icy crust of the Saturn’s moon, according to a research published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology.

This ultimate results confirm the information that the scientists have been collecting from years, proving that the Enceladus moon is geographically active. “The fine spray of water vapor, icy particles and simple organic molecules Cassini has observed coming from fractures near the moon’s south pole is being fed by this vast liquid water reservoir”, says the paper. The researchers analyzed the images received from Cassini for years, until they felt confident to make the announcement.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“This was a hard problem that required years of observations, and calculations involving a diverse collection of disciplines, but we are confident we finally got it right,” said Peter Thomas, a Cassini imaging team member at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and lead author of the paper, in a press release reported by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The first hint about the existence of an icy crust was that the moon didn’t have an spherical shape, making it go faster in certain stages of her orbiting. “This proves that there must be a global layer of liquid separating the surface from the core”, said Matthew Tiscareno, a Cassini participating scientist at the SETI Institute, Mountain View, California, and a co-author of the paper.

The scientists can not explain why the ocean hasn’t been freezed yet, but they are already working in ways to study it. According to the press release, Cassini is scheduled to make a close flyby of Enceladus on Oct. 28, in the mission’s deepest-ever dive through the moon’s active plume of icy material. The spacecraft will pass a mere 30 miles (49 kilometers) above the moon’s surface.

“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 co-author Carolyn Porco in the press release.

Saturn Moons in the spotlight

Titan, the largest Saturn moon, could have lakes, seas, and rainy weather, being the only world besides Earth to have them, according to a study published in Geophysical Research Letters this month. The information was also provided by the Cassini mission.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology