CU Researchers Say Saturn's Enceladus May Be Strangely Hospitable to Life

February 28 2010, 12:52 PM

It seems counter-intuitive, but Enceladus, a moon circling the giant ringed planet Saturn, just might be able to sustain life. That's if researchers are correct in their inspection of new, detailed images of the moon, with compelling evidence that parts of the surface may be at least as hospitable as Antarctica on a really bad day. NASA says small jets of water spewed from the southern hemisphere of the small moon during a fly-by and infrared mapping on Tuesday that revealed surface temperatures warmer than previously expected---perhaps better than minus 135 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the International Business Times. Sure, that's still deathly cold, but quite toasty compared to the negative-370 temperatures elsewhere on icy Enceladus, says John Spencer, a composite infrared spectrometer team member based at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder. "Results like this make Enceladus one of the most exciting places we've found in the solar system," he says (via Wired). Too far away to reap heat from the sun, Enceladus' warm spots could be caused by processes linked to Saturn’s gravitational forces.