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

Cassini Spots Water Geysers on Saturn Moon

By Alicia Chang
AP Science Writer

The orbiting Cassini spacecraft has spotted what appear to be water geysers on one of Saturn's icy moons, raising the tantalizing possibility that the celestial object harbors life.

The surprising images from the moon Enceladus represent some of the most dramatic evidence yet that water in liquid form may be present beyond the Earth.

Excited by the discovery, some scientists said Enceladus should be added to the short list of places within the solar system most likely to have extraterrestrial life.

Scientists generally agree several ingredients are needed for life to emerge, including water in liquid form and a stable heat source. But so far, the evidence of any large amounts of water in liquid form on celestial objects beyond Earth is circumstantial and indirect, based on scientists' analysis of rocks and other data.

Cassini recently snapped high-resolution images showing geyser-like eruptions of ice particles and water vapor at Enceladus' south pole, scientists said. The pictures do not actually show any water in liquid form, but scientists believe the ice and vapor must be coming from underground reservoirs of water close to the surface.

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