Is there life on Saturn's ocean-bearing moon Enceladus?

20 April, 2017, 14:04 | Author: Oscar Goodwin
  • Saturn's moon Enceladus has deep-sea hydrothermal vents much like the ones that sustain life on Earth

The evidence was collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which has been examining Saturn and its satellites since 2004, providing Earth-bound researchers with important data. The researchers reported that the hydrogen, along with carbon dioxide that was also found, could mean that undersea microorganisms are producing methane.

NASA's press release explained that microbes - if there are any that exist there - could combine hydrogen with carbon dioxide dissolved in water to obtain energy. The Cassini spacecraft wasn't created to detect life in Enceladus plume since the scientists didn't know that it existed until the spacecraft reached Saturn. In the paper, the Cassini scientists shared that Enceladus has a type of chemical energy, which life can feed on.

What are the primary ingredients that are needed for a place to sustain life?

. The final step is the molecular hydrogen being produced, which has the chemical energy to support microbial systems in the ocean.

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.

From these observations scientists have determined that almost 98 percent of the gas in the plume is water, about one percent is hydrogen and the rest is a mixture of other molecules including carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia.

But scientists suspect there is phosphorus and sulfur present considering that Enceladus' rocky core is thought to be chemically similar to meteorites that contain the two elements.

The discovery of extraterrestrial life in the universe would be a game-changing milestone for science, and new findings revealed by NASA on Thursday give hope we could still uncover that evidence in our own solar system.

"The search for life beyond Earth has enthralled humans for ages", Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. "It would be like a candy store for microbes", Hunter Waite, lead author of the Cassini study, said in a statement. The original plume was estimated to be about 30 miles (50 km) high, while the newly imaged jet extended about 62 miles (100 km) above the moon's surface. Hydrogen had previously been "elusive", they said, but its detection shows the moon s life-supporting potential. "So we're going to start with bacteria and if we get lucky, maybe there's something that's larger", NASA astrobiology senior scientist Mary Voytek said at a news conference.

The next big mission for NASA is the Europa Clipper that will send a spacecraft to orbit Jupitar and make close flybys of Europa. Says Jim Green director of planetary science at NASA.

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