Saturn's moon Enceladus has all the basic ingredients for life

21 Avril, 2017, 20:30 | Author: Come Portier
  • Universal History Archive  UIG via Getty Images

But now, we know that three of the four conditions are there on Enceladus - and this distant moon now joins Mars and Europa as the best potential locations for life beyond Earth in our solar system.

Now, the American space agency has announced that Saturn's moon Enceladus is a habitable world because it has almost all the ingredients to support life.

NASA said in a press release that the presence of hydrogen in the sub-surface ocean "means that microbes - if any exist there - could use it to obtain energy by combining the hydrogen with carbon dioxide dissolved in water".

NASA discussed new findings about the oceans beyond the Earth in our solar system Thursday during a briefing from NASA headquarters in Washington, DC.

According to NASA and JPL, the Cassini spacecraft detected a flow of hydrogen gas into the sub-surface ocean on the icy moon Enceladus.

The hydrogen and the methanogenesis could well provide a food source for microbes, experts think, in the same way it does on Earth. This instrument was created to examine the upper atmosphere of Titan, another of Saturn's 62 known moons.

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Molecular hydrogen was detected in the ice plumes erupting from the moon's surface in October 2015 when Cassini passed through the plumes, skimming just 49 kilometers (30 miles) above the moon's surface collecting samples. "We have to go back and look and search for signs of life as well", read the official statement.

At the same time, scientists working with the Hubble telescope say they've found more evidence that another of Jupiter's moons, Europa, is spurting out watery jets of its own, giving us yet another potential spot where life might develop.

Analysis has shown the plumes mainly to consist of tiny particles of water ice, with traces of methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide, salts, and simple organic molecules.

"In 2005, Cassini, orbiting around Saturn, flying by the moons of Saturn with close flybys of Insolitus, it observed huge plumes of water emanating from cracks". This doesn't mean that there is life on Enceladus, but it is possible that some form of life exists there.

After first spotting the apparent plume in 2014, scientists in 2016 saw it in the same spot, which appears to be a particularly warm region of Europa where fissures occur in the icy crust.

If life is present, it could resemble single-celled extremophiles that have lived in hydrothermal vents for billions of years. A spacecraft under development called the Europa Clipper could shed more light on the matter. "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.


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