Hydrothermal Vents on Enceladus

Enceladusstripes_cassiniJust days after posting about five places in the solar system that could support life now or in the past, it was announced that Saturn’s moon Enceladus may very likely have hydrothermal vents.  And they’re hot.  If confirmed, this would mean that only two places in the solar system are known to have them, Enceladus and Earth.

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Artist’s concept of hydrothermal vents at Enceladus’ southern polar region. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Jets of water vapour have been observed at the southern polar area of Enceladus coming from around 100 cryovolcanoes.  The “tiger stripes” found on Enceladus are in this region.

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Hydrothermal vents near the Marianas Trench. Courtesy of NOAA.

Hydrothermal vents are wonderful places to find life that doesn’t necessarily need oxygen to live.  It’s hypothesised that life could have formed around these vents on prehistoric Earth, as they are teeming with life.  Knowing this, my initial assessment of Enceladus’ possibility of supporting life has gone up quite a bit.

This is very exciting news.  Cassini will pass by Enceladus only three more times.  Hopefully more information will be discovered.

14 thoughts on “Hydrothermal Vents on Enceladus”

  1. Very interesting. Enceladus is a moderately important setting in one of the stories my clone and I are writing together — not that we’re planning to write anything with alien life-forms there (he said, deliberately ignoring some definitions of ‘alien’).

      1. Maybe mentioning that, in addition to all the other dangers on the surface of Enceladus, there are also geysers to deal with. Other than that, I don’t expect any changes to the story. (I’m not saying there definitely WON’T be changes, only that I don’t expect any. Unexpected things have happened during the writing before.)

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