It's been nearly a decade since the Cassini spacecraft peeked in on tiny Enceladus -- and stirred up a storm.

Were those images of water, literally bursting from the thin cracks in the surface of Saturn's icy moon?

Indeed, at about 500 km in diameter -- roughly a seventh of Earth's moon -- Enceladus would prove no sleepy satellite.

Back in 2005, Cassini captured images of what appeared to be an ocean. And not just some dead, frozen block deep beneath the moon's husk, but an ocean at play, shooting jets of water vapour into space.

Publishing their results in the journal Science this week, an international team of scientists has confirmed the spacecraft's stunning suggestion -- leaving the door open on the even more tantalizing possibility of life in our solar system. At least, on the microbial level.

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This image provided by NASA shows Saturn's moon Enceladus taken during Cassini's extremely close encounter with Enceladus on Thursday Oct. 9, 2008. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL)

The ocean, sprawling over the moon's south pole, is estimated to be about eight kilometres deep, covering about as much area as Lake Superior, the BBC reports.

"It's even possible that it's global," study co-author and planetary scientist David Stevenson tells CBC'S Quirks & Quarks. "All that we can say for certain is this layer of water is thickest at the south pole."

Sheathed in white ice, Enceladus is one of the brighter shiny baubles among Saturn's 53 known moons. But its beauty is more than skin deep. While the ocean may seem entombed in ice, team leader Luciano Iess of Sapienza University of Rome, suggests it stays relatively fluid, thanks to tides -- and those tides, in turn, build friction , essentially heating the water.

“I was not surprised because we knew there was liquid water,” he said in a statement. “But quantifying the amount of water was a different story. It could have been rather shallow or a remarkable mass, like the one we have found.”

The Cassini-Huygens mission -- comprising an orbiter module (Cassini) and a probe (Huygens) is well-equipped for its exploration of Saturn's myriad moons. Since reaching Saturn in 2004, the spacecraft has been soaking up data with its powerful instruments and cameras. NASA has hailed it as "one of the most ambitious missions ever launched into space."

It's also fueling calls for a shift in our space-faring strategy, as Saturn's diminutive satellite comes into focus.

“Enceladus has the most accessible extraterrestrial habitable zone,” Carolyn Porco, leader of Cassini’s imaging team, told Wired. "This place is really where we should be going."

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  • Saturn's Polar Vortex

  • Saturn's Polar Vortex

  • Saturn's Polar Vortex

  • Saturn's Polar Vortex

  • Saturn's Polar Vortex

  • Saturn's Polar Vortex

  • ADDS DROPPED WORDS IN SECOND SENTENCE--An image provided by NASA shows Saturn's largest moon Titan passing in front of the giant planet in an image made by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The natural color view of Saturn and one of it's moons was made by Cassini's wide-angle camera on May 6, 2012 and released by NASA on Wednesday Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • This undated true color image by the Cassini spacecraft released by NASA shows Saturn's largest moon, Titan, passing in front of the planet and its rings. A new study released Thursday, June 28, 2012 suggests there may be an ocean below Titan's frigid surface. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • This photo made March 10, 2012, by NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows a raw, unprocessed image of Saturn's moon Rhea. The camera was pointing toward Rhea from a distance of approximately 42,096 kilometers (26,157 miles). (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

  • This false-color mosaic provided by NASA from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the tail of Saturn's huge northern storm, top. The storm's 200-day active period also makes it the longest-lasting planet-encircling storm ever seen on Saturn. The previous record holder was an outburst sighted in 1903, which lingered for 150 days. The large disturbance imaged 21 years ago by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and comparable in size to the current storm lasted for only 55 days. (AP Photo/ NASA/JPL)

  • NASA's Cassini spacecraft obtained this unprocessed image on Dec. 12, 2011. The camera was pointing toward Saturn's moon Dione from approximately 69,989 miles (112,636 kilometers) away. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its closest-ever pass over Saturn’s moon Dione on Monday, Dec. 12, slaloming its way through the Saturn system on its way to tomorrow’s close flyby of Titan. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • This photo made March 10, 2012, by NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows a raw, unprocessed image of Saturn's moon Rhea. The camera was pointing toward Rhea from a distance of approximately 42,096 kilometers (26,157 miles). (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

  • ** CORRECTING RELEASE TIME FOR THIS IMAGE TO 1 PM EST SUNDAY DEC. 12 ** ** HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL 1 PM EST SUNDAY DEC. 12, 2010 ** This image provided by NASA, taken Oct. 6, 2004, by the Cassini Saturn Probe, shows the planet Saturn and its rings. One of the most evocative mysteries of the solar system, where Saturn got its stunning rings, may actually be a case of cosmic murder with an unnamed moon of Saturn, that disappeared about 4.5 billion years ago, as the potential victim. Suspicion has fallen on a disk of hydrogen gas, that surrounded Saturn when its dozens of moons were forming, but has now fled the scene. And the cause of death? A possible forced plunge into Saturn. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • SCIENCE Saturn 6

    Handout photo of Saturn and its rings from ESA taken March 27, 2004. Cassini-Huygens is a joint NASA European Space Agency mission which will enter Saturn's orbit on July 1, 2004 after a seven year journey. UK scientists are involved with instruments on both the Cassini orbiter and the Huygens probe. Huygens will separate and descend onto Titan, Saturn's largest moon on January 14, 2005.The See PA story SCIENCE Saturn. PA Photo: Handout/ESA

  • SCIENCE Jupiter 1

    Nasa undated handout of Jupiter with its largest moon, Ganymede. Breathtaking images of Jupiter captured by a Nasa spacecraft on its way to Saturn were made public for the first time, Friday March 7, 2003. The pictures, beamed 400 million to Earth from the American space agency s Cassini spacecraft, are being analysed by British scientists. As well as providing dramatic new views of Jupiter and its moons, they have turned at least one scientific assumption about the giant planet upside down. Cassini was launched in October 1997 on a mission to Saturn, which it should reach in July next year. It carries the European Space Agency s Huygens probe which is due to parachute down into the atmosphere of Saturn s moon Titan. The spacecraft made a fly-by of Jupiter in order to pick up speed by getting a gravitational kick from the planet.

  • This Cassini spacecraft narrow angle cam

    SPACE, SPACE: This Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera view released 19 August, 2004 shows Saturn's southern polar region. The dark spot at the bottom of the image marks the planet's south pole. The image was takenfrom a distance of 6.2 million kilometers (3.9 million miles) from Saturn, through a filter which lets infrared light pass through. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. AFP PHOTO/ NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute (Photo credit should read HO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Cassini Enters Orbit Around Saturn

    JULY 1 - IN SPACE: This NASA handout photo taken by the Cassini spacecraft on July 1, 2004 shows a portion of Saturn's rings up close. Cassini is the first spacecraft to enter orbit around the ringed planet. It will spend four years gathering information on the planet and its rings and moons. (Photo by NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute via Getty Images)

  • An image provided by NASA shows Saturn's largest moon Titan passing in front of the giant planet in an image made by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The natural color view of Saturn and one of it's moonswid-angle camera on May6, 2012 and released by NASA on Wednesday Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/NASA)