• Enceladus, a small moon of Saturn, hides a global ocean beneath its crust of ice.
  • Scientists could not explain how the ocean formed, however, nor how long it might have existed.
  • New 3D computer models hint a porous rocky core — kneaded by the gravity of Saturn — could provide enough heat to keep the ocean going for perhaps billions of years.
  • Based on the amount of time it took life to emerge on Earth, the study bodes well in the search for alien microbes.

Deep inside Enceladus, an icy moon of Saturn some 890 million miles from Earth, one of our best chances of discovering alien life is heating up.

Enceladus is less than 1% the size of our moon yet hides an ocean containing up to 10% as much water as exists on Earth. What’s more, chemical studies of ice jets shooting out of Enceladus’ south pole suggest the moon’s deep, warm waters could be “a candy store” for microbes.

No one yet knows if aliens exist in this distant subsurface ocean. However, a study published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy suggest the moon’s hidden sea of water may be billions of years old — perhaps even as old as Earth’s own oceans.

“This could be good news for the astrobiological potential of Enceladus’s ocean,” Kevin Hand, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who wasn’t involved in the research, told Business Insider in an email. “We don’t know how long it takes for the origin of life to occur, but more time is probably better.”

Why we know Enceladus hides an ocean

enceladus ice crust subsurface global ocean hydrothermal vents illustration nasa jpl

Scientists long suspected Enceladus might Read More Here