Astronomers Find Habitable Zone in Saturn's Moon

20 April, 2017, 09:45 | Author: Oscar Goodwin

Could there be life under the icy surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus?

Another plume was also found on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons that's covered in ice and has twice as much ocean as Earth underneath that surface.

"The discovery of native molecular hydrogen [H2] completes the set of what I would call the "basic" requirements for life as we know it: liquid water, organic molecules, minerals, and an accessible source of "free" energy", Lunine explained to Gizmodo.

They described their findings in the journal Science.

NASA researchers are finding increasing evidence the building blocks for life may be on two moons inside our solar system.

The paper by researchers with the Cassini mission, published Thursday in Science magazine, says that the hydrogen gas - which could potentially provide a source of chemical energy for the existence of life - is found in Enceladus' frozen ocean.

NASA says the plumes of water on the moons show, "some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment".

Mathanogensis, a chemical reaction that produces methane as a byproduct, is at the root of the tree of life on Earth and could even have been critical to the origin of life on the planet.

"Enceladus is high on the list in the solar system for showing habitable conditions", said Hunter Waite, the lead author of the study."There is chemical potential to support microbial systems". As it passed through, the craft detected hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane which were in "thermodynamic disequilibrium".

During Cassini's close flyby of Enceladus on October 28, 2015, INMS detected molecular hydrogen as the spacecraft flew through the plume of gas and ice grains spewing from cracks on the surface.

Life could exist on Saturn's moon Enceladus around hydrothermal vents similar to those found at the bottom of Earth's oceans, scientists believe. Cassini then sampled the plume's composition, and the scientists have determined that almost 98% of the gas in the plume is water, about 1% is hydrogen, and the rest is a mixture of other molecules including carbon dioxide, methane, and ammonia. But its detectors were turned towards Jupiter's icy moon Enceladus post discovering the emission of the towering plume of icy spray in 2015. New observations from NASA's Galileo spacecraft suggests Europa's plume, like the plumes on Enceladus, is associated with warmer temperature readings. Analysis determined that it was unlikely that the observed hydrogen was acquired during the formation of Enceladus or from other processes on the moon's surface or in the interior. "We re finding new environments", said James Green, NASA s Planetary Science Division Director. "This drives Enceladus to the top of the heap on conditions that demonstrate habitability". The Europa Clipper mission, set to send a probe and lander to Jovian moon, is scheduled to launch sometime in the next decade.

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