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Enceladus’ ocean goes global

Liquid water hidden under ice of entire Saturnian moon, study suggests

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6:00am, September 17, 2015
Illustration of Enceladus

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE  Saturn’s moon Enceladus (illustrated, not to scale) harbors a global ocean of water beneath its icy surface, a new study suggests.

Forget about a measly southern sea. A global ocean of liquid water lurks beneath the ice of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, a new study suggests.

“It’s a very exciting result and moves us to the next level,” says William McKinnon, a planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis. “We can stop talking about whether the ocean is global or regional.”

The ocean on Enceladus announced itself by giving the moon a little extra twist. As Enceladus orbits Saturn, it subtly shimmies about its axis. Images from the Cassini spacecraft show that the moon sways a bit too far for the icy surface to be clinging to the rocky core. The ice instead probably floats upon a liquid layer, planetary scientist Peter Thomas and colleagues report online September 11 in Icarus.

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