Saturn moon ‘able to support life’

Saturn moon ‘able to support life’

An ice-encrusted moon orbiting Saturn appears to have the conditions necessary for life, NASA announced Thursday, unveiling new findings made by its unmanned Cassini spacecraft.

Cassini has detected hydrogen molecules in vapour plumes emanating from cracks in the surface of Enceladus, a small ocean moon coated in a thick layer of ice, the US space agency said. The plumes have led scientists to infer that hydrothermal chemical reactions between the moon’s rocky core and its ocean – located under the ice crust – are likely occurring on Enceladus.

On Earth, those chemical reactions allow microbes to flourish in hot cracks in the planet’s ocean floors — depths sunlight cannot reach — meaning the moon could also nourish life. The new research, published on Thursday in the journal Science, “indicates there is chemical potential to support microbial systems,” he said.

The hydrogen detection resulted from Cassini’s October 2015 deep dive close to the surface of Enceladus. Using a spectrometer, the spacecraft determined that the plumes are 98% water and one percent hydrogen, with traces of molecules including ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane.

Hydrogen had previously been “elusive,” scientists said, but its detection shows the moon’s life-supporting potential.

The hydrogen in the sub-surface ocean could combine with carbon dioxide molecules in a process known as “methanogenesis,” which creates a byproduct of methane. If there are indeed microbes living in the moon’s ocean, they could tap that energy source as sustenance.

Related Post

Space station captures UFO: VIDEO
views 86
The unidentified object appeared on live footage streamed from the International Space Station. The clip has since been posted on YouTube by user...
Smallest super massive black hole ever detected
views 44
Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have identified the smallest super-massive black hole ever detected in the centre of a galaxy. Thi...
Dark matter present in Milky Way, confirm scientists
views 51
London: In a pioneering find, a team of scientists has obtained a direct observational proof of the presence of dark matter in the innermost part the ...
Mercury was magnetic four billion years ago
views 64
Scientists have found evidence of a four billion year old ancient magnetic field on Mercury, according to new data from NASA's Messenger mission. The ...
Researchers Find New Evidence Of Water In A Martian Crater
views 47
Well preserved gullies and debris flow deposits in a crater on the southern hemisphere of Mars are providing new evidence through their geomorphologic...

SHARE WHAT YOU THINK