On May 21, 2005 the NASA space probe Cassini performed a fly-by maneuver in the vicinity of the moon Enceladus. Enceladus is a moon around the planet Saturn.
Why do we care about little ol’ Enceladus? Well, as a result of this fly-by (and other fly-bys as well as a ton of scientific analysis) we learned that Enceladus has an ocean of salty water underneath the ice on its surface. It’s also very seismically active, so active in fact that ‘cryovolcanoes’ shoot geysers of mineral-laden water thousands of miles up into space. It’s these cryovolcanoes that are feeding material into space that eventually coalesce to form one of the rings of Saturn. How cool is that?!?
You might be saying, Well, yeah that’s cool but so what?! Here is the bottom line: Because of all this water and seismic activity, scientists think that Enceladus is a prime candidate for hosting extraterrestrial microbial life. In short, Enceladus may be home to aliens! Little creepy crawly bacteria sized aliens, but aliens nonetheless.
This is why we care about Enceladus. Cassini is still active and the probe continues to study the Saturn ‘system.’ Who knows what other incredible discoveries it may make?
hat tip: Encyclopedia Astronautica