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

Huge asteroid will pass close to our planet on January 26
views 62
A massive asteroid is set to pass closer to Earth than any other for the next 200 years THIS MONTH. The space rock, code-named 2004 BL86, is a third o...
NASA discovers ‘Hand of God’ in space
views 138
A remarkable X-ray taken by scientists reveals the distinctly human shape formed of material from an exploded star. The mysterious formation is an exa...
Russian spaceship flies three astronauts to ISS
views 51
Russia's manned spaceship carrying three astronauts blasted off late Wednesday from Kazakhstan's Baikonur space centre, heading to the International S...
Astronomers find ‘first signs’ of water ice clouds beyond solar...
views 165
The first evidence of water ice clouds beyond the solar system has recently been discovered by astronomers. Such ice clouds have not been seen outside...
NASA completes series of engine tests for next big rocket
views 42
The US space agency NASA has on Thursday succesfully completed the first developmental test series on the RS-25 rocket engine that will power the upco...

SHARE WHAT YOU THINK