Cassini images of Enceladus suggest liquid water on Saturn moon

Snip from a message posted today on the "captain's log" for the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations:

Our detailed analyses of these images have led us to a remarkable conclusion, documented in a paper […] published in the journal SCIENCE […], that the jets are erupting from pockets of liquid water, possibly as close to the surface as ten meters … a surprising circumstance for a body so small and cold. Other Cassini instruments have found that the fractures on the surface and the plume itself contain simple organic materials, and that there is more heat on average emerging from the south polar terrain, per square meter, than from the Earth.

Gathering all the evidence and steeling ourselves for the "shockwave spread 'round the world", we find ourselves staring at the distinct possibility that we may have on Enceladus subterranean environments capable of supporting life. We may have just stumbled upon the Holy Grail of modern day planetary exploration. It doesn't get any more exciting than this.

A great deal more analysis and further exploration with Cassini must ensue before this implication becomes anything more than a suggestion. But at the moment, the prospects are staggering. Enceladus may have just taken center stage as the body in our solar system, outside the Earth, having the most easily accessible bodies of organic-rich water and, hence, significant biological potential…

Link to report released today in Science, Link to CICLOPS blog post, and here's the media release. Wowza. Oh, right, and here's the NASA website, and here's the Cassini mission. (Thanks, John Parres!)

Previously on BoingBoing:

Liquid water discovered on Saturn moon