In man’s ever-hopeful quest to find other intelligent life in the universe, many space-ly entities have garnered attention at different times. In the 19th and early 20th centuries there was a moon craze and in recent years Mars has seemed the most promising—thus intensive NASA investment in exploring this ruddy planet. (And most of the planets in the solar system had hopeful devotees at one point or another.)
What's the latest space-trend? A lunar investigation of one of Saturn’s moons.
Somehow Saturn hit the big-bang jackpot, and it boasts an entire fleet of moons: 62 confirmed in all. But one of them uniquely stands out—the sixth largest dubbed Enceladus, in keeping with the general Greek god naming scheme for space (good thing those Grecians had loads of deities!).
So what makes Enceladus so special? New data from a NASA spacecraft indicates the 300 mile-wide orb holds an underground saltwater ocean (and water is a mega life-potential substance) with at least as much H2O as the earth’s largest fresh water lake, Michigan’s Lake Superior. Enceladus’ ocean appears to be 6 miles deep, buried under a whopping 20 miles of ice. (For an earthly comparison of proportions, much of our land is at or near sea leve—no 20- mile barrier for us. The average ocean depth is just 2.65 miles and only the deepest point in the ocean is close to seven miles from the surface.)
Enceladus is also the only place outside Earth known to house energy, carbon and nitrogen, which—together with the sweet sweet water—are the four essential building blocks for life as it appears on our planet.
Scientists are looking into future missions to Enceladus to get more deets, including taking samples from vapor arising from the moon’s south pole—where organic molecules have already been detected by the spacecraft. And while none of this sounds promising for finding glorious Moon people of our dreams (unless they are icy mermaids), any old single-celled organism would still be mighty exciting. We're tired of being all alone in the cosmos!