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Happy 230th Birthday, Enceladus, Our Solar System’s Greatest Hope For Life Beyond Earth

4 Sep 2019, 14:01 UTC
Happy 230th Birthday, Enceladus, Our Solar System’s Greatest Hope For Life Beyond Earth NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Today marks the 230th anniversary of the discovery of Enceladus, one of the most unique and puzzling worlds of our Solar System. Its discoverer, William Herschel, had become famous across the world for his serendipitous discovery, back in 1781, of the 7th planet in our Solar System: Uranus. Herschel was catapulted to stardom for this, and was granted anything he wanted to continue his studies by King George of England.

Unsurprisingly, he chose to build what was then the world’s most powerful telescope, which he used to observe the skies as never before. With unsurpassed resolution and light-gathering power, he could see moons and nebulae that were invisible to all previous astronomers. In 1789, he saw a small, white speck around Saturn: its moon Enceladus. Although it remained little more than a speck for 200 years, it’s renowned today as perhaps the most promising location for life beyond Earth in all the Solar System.

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