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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Cassini Spots Water Geysers on Saturn Moon

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By Alicia Chang
AP Science Writer

Saturn is around 800 million miles from Earth. Enceladus measures 314 miles across and is the shiniest object in the solar system.

Enceladus was long thought to be cold and still, in part because it receives so little sunlight. But scientists now believe it is a geologically active moon that possesses an unusually warm south pole and a significant atmosphere.

The south pole "hot spot" is still frigid by Earth standards. The temperature there is minus-297 degrees - about 20 degrees warmer than the neighboring region.

The water is believed to come from underground reservoirs that are under high pressure. Porco said the venting has probably been going on for at least several thousand years, perhaps indicating a lasting heat source underground.

Cassini found the geysers are mostly made up of water vapor and ice particles with significant amounts of carbon dioxide and trace amounts of methane - all of which probably help to replenish the moon's atmosphere.


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