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NASA maps out geysers, finds evidence of liquid water on surface of Saturn moon

Plumes of water ice and vapor shoot up from the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus in this two-image mosaic taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in November 2009. Analysis by NASA scientists indicates that water can reach the Saturnian moon's surface. Click through to see more Cassini images of Saturn and its moons. Plumes of water ice and vapor shoot up from the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus in this two-image mosaic taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in November 2009. Analysis by NASA scientists indicates that water can reach the Saturnian moon's surface. Click through to see more Cassini images of Saturn and its moons.
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Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
Saturn and its moons
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NASA scientists identify 101 geysers on Enceladus
  • An analysis suggests liquid water could be on the moon's surface

(CNN) -- On the surface of one of Saturn's icy moons, scientists have discovered the possible existence of a very important, life-sustaining element: liquid water.

NASA scientists announced Monday the identification of 101 distinct geysers erupting on Saturn's moon Enceladus. Their analysis suggests that water, a crucial component for life beyond our planet, can reach the Saturnian moon's surface.

Ocean buried under Saturn moon
NASA releases impressive Saturn images

First sighted in 2005, the geysers erupt from four "tiger stripe" fractures along the moon's south polar terrain and spew tiny ice particles and water vapor, NASA said in news release.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Cassini's Saturn orbit insertion, NASA has listed the top 10 things we wouldn't know if the spaceship hadn't traveled to the ringed planet. Also: Cassini images of Saturn and its moons. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Cassini's Saturn orbit insertion, NASA has listed the top 10 things we wouldn't know if the spaceship hadn't traveled to the ringed planet. Also: Cassini images of Saturn and its moons.
Cassini's top 10 discoveries about Saturn
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Photos: Cassini\'s Saturn discoveries Photos: Cassini's Saturn discoveries

After seven years of collecting mission data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, scientists found the geysers to be powered by small hot spots -- the result of water vapor condensing and venting from subsurface seawater; thus, answering questions about the geysers' origins.

Researchers had previously thought the ice particles and water vapor came from either frictional heat or from water vapor below the surface.

"Once we had these results in hand, we knew right away heat was not causing the geysers, but vice versa," said NASA adviser Carolyn Porco, who led the Cassini imaging team.

"It also told us the geysers are not a near-surface phenomenon, but have much deeper roots."

More space content: Supermoon linked to supercreativity? We think so

CNN's Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

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