Station 504, Mare Australis Subglacius, Enceladus, Saturn (2014)
One of Saturn's 62 moons — Enceladus — is covered by a layer of ice 20 miles thick, and scientists announced on Thursday, 3 April 2014, that it has a sea of liquid water underneath the ice at its south pole. This ocean may be more than five miles deep, and possibly the source of geysers of ice crystals that have been observed shooting out of fissures in the polar region into space. The Cassini space probe has detected methane and carbon dioxide in these plumes, which extend at least 110 miles from the surface. This is remarkable as the moon itself is only 300 miles in diameter.
To exobiologists, the possibility of extraterrestrial life in our solar system centers on four bodies: Mars, Europa (a moon of Jupiter), Titan (the most famous of Saturn’s moons), and Enceladus. Only Enceladus is currently known to possess the four essential ingredients for Earth-like life: liquid water, energy (in this case the friction from tidal forces pulling on the moon), carbon and nitrogen.
Our piece imagines a future research station located at the south pole of Enceladus, and discoveries we can only speculate on at present.
(First presented in London 2014 as part of the astroLAB project curated by Paul Malone and Nicola Rae.)