Saturn breakthrough: How NASA made ‘greatest discovery of century’ while ...

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System, best known for its prominant ring system. In 2004, NASA’s Cassini probe entered orbit of the planet to study the unique features and also the surrounding natural satellites. Four years later, on March 12, 2008, Cassini passed within 30 miles of the moon Enceladus, where it passed through plumes of water, carbon dioxide and other gases.

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Brian Cox revealed during his BBC series “The Planets” why the discovery left the space agency to believe Enceladus may be hiding some form of life.

He said last month: “Cassini has deepened our understanding of the origin and evolution of Saturn. 

“Because just beyond the ring it discovered another treasure, a place that may hold answers to some of our deepest questions about the possibility of life in the Solar System.

“Over a billon kilometres from the warmth of the Sun, just on the outer edge of Saturn’s rings, lies the icy moon Enceladus.”

SaturnNASA probed Saturn with its Cassini spacecraft (Image: GETTY)

Brian Cox revealed all during his BBC showBrian Cox revealed all during his BBC show (Image: BBC)

One of the greatest discoveries in 21st century space exploration

Brian Cox

Dr Cox went on to detail how the surface of Enceladus mesmerised scientists.

He added: “Enceladus is quite a small moon, it’s only about the size of Iceland actually.

“But that does not make it dull, it is the most reflective object in the Solar System, over 90 percent of the light that hits it bounces back."

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