NASA to announce new discoveries about ocean worlds

A flag stands out as winds over 20 mph (32 kmh) buffet Kennedy Space Center 09 October 2000 to causing NASA managers delay the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery for at least another 24 hhours. Discovery and her crew were scheduled to launch 09 October from pad 39-A on an eleven-day mission to the International Space Station delivering and installing the Z-1 truss assembly. AFP PHOTO/Bruce WEAVER (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNN) – NASA will present new discoveries about the ocean worlds in our solar system on Thursday, the agency announced. Learning more about ocean worlds could help in the agency’s quest for life beyond Earth.

The findings were gathered by researchers through the Hubble Space Telescope and Cassini spacecraft. Cassini has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, and the mission ends this year.

“During its time at Saturn, Cassini has made numerous dramatic discoveries, including a global ocean that showed indications of hydrothermal activity within the icy moon Enceladus, and liquid methane seas on its moon Titan,” NASA said in a release.

Earth is considered an ocean world because those bodies of water cover the majority of the planet’s surface. Other ocean worlds in our solar system potentially include Jupiter’s moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto; Saturn’s moons Enceladus, Mimas and Titan; Neptune’s moon Triton; and the dwarf planet Pluto.

It is believed that Venus and Mars were once ocean worlds, but the greenhouse gas effect and a vulnerable atmosphere, respectively, caused those planets to lose them.