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3 Jun, 2023
1 min time to read

The James Webb Space Telescope has observed enormous plumes of water emanating from Saturn's moon Enceladus.

This finding adds to the growing excitement surrounding the possibility of finding life within our own solar system.

Enceladus, known for its subsurface ocean beneath a thick icy crust, has long been considered a potential hotspot for life. The Cassini mission, which explored Enceladus in the 2000s, had previously flown through water plumes erupting from the moon's surface, increasing scientists' interest in its subsurface ocean.

Now, the James Webb Space Telescope has provided a new perspective by observing these plumes all the way from Earth. Despite Enceladus's relatively small size of just over 300 miles across, the observed plume stretched over an astonishing distance of more than 6,000 miles. Lead author Geronimo Villanueva of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center expressed:

"The orbit of Enceladus around Saturn is relatively quick, just 33 hours. As it whips around Saturn, the moon and its jets are basically spitting off water, leaving a halo, almost like a donut, in its wake. In the Webb observations, not only was the plume huge, but there was just water absolutely everywhere."