Life on Enceladus?

enceladusEvidence from Cassini, a robot spacecraft, suggests that there are oceans of hot water on Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus. Might the oceans be home to alien life? In this activity students use their knowledge of the behaviour of water in its liquid and solid states to weigh up the evidence for and against the presence of liquid water on Enceladus. They then decide if it is worth sending a second spacecraft to look for alien life on this icy moon.

Science objective

Particle model: Explain the properties of solids, liquids and gases based on the arrangement and movement of their particles (KS3 Science Syllabus)

Designed for the KS3 Science SyllabusEnquiry objective

Draw conclusions: Judge whether the conclusion is supported by the data (KS3 Science Syllabus)

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Running the activity

Starter New evidence suggests that Enceladus has oceans of hot, liquid water. Could this be true? If so, does the moon harbour alien life?
Main Cassini, a robot spacecraft, has gathered data from Enceladus. Students interpret the data to decide on the strength of the evidence for the conclusion that there is hot liquid water on Enceladus.
Plenary Students discuss whether it is worth sending a spacecraft to look for alien life on Enceladus.

For detailed running notes, download the teachers guide.


Enceladus video clips

Video clips with Brian Cox about what the Cassini spacecraft discovered about Enceladus. Suitable for use in class to introduce the activity.

Solar system exploration

Information about Enceladus from NASA, including links to resources news releases about the findings of Cassini.

Saturn and its moons

Information about Enceladus from NASA, including links to a virtual tour, information about its atmosphere and news releases about the findings of Cassini.

Hot springs on Enceladus

Useful teacher background about recent findings.

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  • vickyp75 says:

    Life on Enceladus

    I found that this activity really motivated the pupils –

  • mcqscience says:

    Brilliant for World Space Week Oct 4 – 10

    This is brilliant for interdisciplinary collaborations.

  • ehowell26 says:

    Life on Enceladus?

    Very engaging and challenging

  • montsepascual says:

    Life in Enceladus

    A very interesting way to introduce the Universe

  • joozar52 says:

    universe exploration

    students of grade 12 physics are very keen in knowing more about space and universe and keep asking me about them. this kind of activity helps to quench their thirst. thanks

  • maunoury says:

    very interesting and easy to use

    My french pupils (year 12) are learning physics in English. They have done a really good team work thanks to this activity. Thanks a lot.

  • annamckeown8 says:

    Stem club activity

    Students love the idea that there may be aliens “so close” to home.

  • stig says:

    Good quality resources

    Works well with mixed ability groupings where some of the weaker students can be supported by the more able to understand the ideas.

  • khall says:

    Enceladus activity

    The Enceladus activity was well put together and had excellent information. The four for student engagement is only because I teach alternative students and it is very hard to get engagement. The fact that they engaged to the extent that they did speaks well of the activity.

    • Philippa says:

      Thank you!

      Thank you, Khall, for taking the trouble to comment. I’m glad your students engaged with the activity! Philippa, for the writing team.

  • panayiota says:


    From a teacher in Cyprus
    Personally I chose this scientific article because it seems to me very interesting that there is life in space. The lesson plan there is a detailed and carefully structured and thought out. I think it would initiate the interest of students on condition that his / her teacher will teach as much learner-centered. At this point I want to say that after reading the presentation I noticed that there are many slides with likely difficult for students concepts. On the one hand it is important to note the lesson for kids to understand this issue in depth. On the other hand I think the teacher should enter the process to explain shorter and simpler terms. However, the course includes several activities with the active participation of students which questions are set to reflect and use their critical thinking. Also the teacher greatly promotes cooperation for exchanging views and personal view of students. In summary I would say that although the course will be relatively difficult to learn in school, it would be a useful teaching to enrich their knowledge and food for thought.
    (translated from Greek)

    • khall says:

      No difficulties for my ELL or native English speakers

      Not sure the translation from Greek is all that great and I wonder if the difficulty is because the activity is structured for native English speakers. However, my ELL students did not struggle with the material.