There’s been a lot of chatter in the news about Europa and the possibility of life. Europa has been the astrobiology darling for a few years – but I think that Enceladus is now the forerunner, and it’s where we should be looking next. Why you ask? Well here’s a few reasons:
Enceladus has range of terrains from old, heavily cratered surfaces, tectonic features including scarps, troughs, grooves, ridges, and a young surface and evidence of recent tectonic activity in the southern hemisphere, less than 10 – 100 my. Plate movement is an indication of an active geology. The plume of water ice and other materials erupting to a height of >80 km from the surface of the moon at temperatures of order 70 K to 150 K provides strong evidence that Enceladus’ interior may be warm, contain a sub surface ocean and that its surface is presently tectonically active.