Saturn Moon's Ice Geysers Create "Cosmic Graffiti"

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"[The moons] are sitting in that E-ring, and those particles [from the geysers] are being whizzed around," she said.

"They impact these satellites at a pretty high velocity. The impacts churn up the surface of these moons and create a fluffy, porous surface, which is just what you'd need to make something more reflective."

(See pictures of Saturn from NASA's Cassini mission.)

Verbiscer's team measured the reflectivity of Saturn's moons during an unusual astronomical event in which the moons lined up exactly opposite the sun as seen from Earth.

The alignment and its optimal viewing angle won't be repeated until 2049.

Enceladus's geysers have made the moon a hot spot for astronomers looking for signs of life in space.

If the geysers are drawing from pockets of water below the moon's surface, as some theories suggest, those reservoirs could harbor an intriguing variety of primitive life-forms much like those found in Earth's deep-ocean hydrothermal vents.

Amy Simon-Miller, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, cautions that we don't yet understand the nature of the geysers.

But if they do indicate liquid water, their impact on other moons raises intriguing questions about where life could exist in the solar system.

"Comets have long been considered as a possible source of water and other materials for planets," she said.

"The transport of material between moons could provide further clues about the delivery of the raw materials needed for life to the surfaces of otherwise barren worlds."

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