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Space probe Cassini flies through a spray of ice from Saturn’s moon, Enceladus

Enceladus Saturn's moon Enceladus is to be closely examined for signs of life by the Cassini space probe. On Wednesday 28th October, it is to be steered through a fountain of icy spray that is spurting out of the ocean just beneath Enceladus’s icy shell—an ocean that might just have alien life-forms living in it. Analysing exactly what chemicals are in the spray would enable experts to find out whether the moon had the right “ingredients for life”: water, chemicals and energy. In December, Cassini will again fly by Enceladus, this time at a much higher altitude to measure the heat flowing from the moon's interior.

Animation of Cassini's flyby of Enceladus{more}

Cassini space probe

Cassini space probe will fly through a plume that is shooting out of Enceladus’s south polar region 49 kilometres (30 miles) above its icy surface. During the approach, instruments on board the craft will sample the spray and analyse the chemicals within it. The low flight path will enable Cassini to sample heavier molecules, including organic chemicals. The plume has already been seen erupting from one of the mysterious surface features on Enceladus known as "tiger stripes”: four 2-kilometre (1.2-mile) wide cracks, mint-green in colour, which are believed to be sites of regular volcanic activity on Enceladus.

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