The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has spotted Saturn’s moon Enceladus spraying out a huge plume of water vapour, far bigger than any previously seen there. This enormous cloud might contain the chemical ingredients of life, escaping from beneath the moon’s icy surface.

In 2005, a NASA spacecraft called Cassini discovered icy particles squirting from Enceladus’s subsurface ocean through cracks in the moon’s surface. But JWST shows that material is spraying much farther than previously thought — many times deeper into space than the size of Enceladus itself.

“It’s immense,” said Sara Faggi, a planetary astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, on 17 May at a conference at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. She declined to provide further details, citing a scientific paper that will be published soon.

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