Saturn's Icy Moon Enceladus, a Possible Home for Life, Shines in Photo

Don't judge a planet by its exterior because this moon of Saturn may just hold the potential for life within its icy shell. The Cassini spacecraft captured this image November 27, 2016 using its narrow-angle camera. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Icy, harsh and uninhabitable — looking at Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, this may be your initial expectation from the cosmic satellite. But take a closer look at this view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft and you might be surprised.

"Over the course of the Cassini mission, observations have shown that Enceladus (313 miles or 504 kilometers across) not only has watery jets sending icy grains into space; under its icy crust it also has a global ocean, and may have hydrothermal activity as well," NASA officals wrote in an image description. "Since scientists believe liquid water is a key ingredient for life, the implications for future missions searching for life elsewhere in our solar system could be significant." [Photos: Enceladus, Saturn's Cold, Bright Moon]

The Cassini spacecraft used its narrow-angle camera and a green filter to snap this image of the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Enceladus on Nov. 27, 2016 (NASA released the image on Feb. 6 of this year). The spacecraft was more than 80,000 miles (129,000 kilometers) from Enceladus at the time,a according to the NASA description.

Cassini's mission began in 1997 and will come to a triumphant and beneficial end in 2017 after 20 years of collecting data from around the Milky Way.

Cassini is managed by JPL-Caltech and is a cooperative venture of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. 

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Christine Lunsford
Producer and Contributing Writer

Christine Lunsford joined the team in 2010 as a freelance producer and later became a contributing writer, covering astrophotography images, astronomy photos and amazing space galleries and more. During her more than 10 years with, oversaw the site's monthly skywatching updates and produced overnight features and stories on the latest space discoveries. She enjoys learning about subjects of all kinds.