Saturn's Moon 'Enceladus' Can Host Alien Life — NASA Announcement

Saturn's Moon 'Enceladus' Can Host Alien Life — NASA Announcement

NASA on Thursday revealed that conditions on Enceladus, the sixth-largest moon orbiting Saturn, may be ideal to support life.

Sadly, we soon have to say goodbye to Cassini after all the fantastic work it's been doing in studying Saturn and its moons.

The findings from the Cassini mission reveal that almost all of these ingredients have been detected on Enceladus, except for phosphorous and sulfur.

Scientists were already certain Enceladus hosts liquid water.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency's Science Mission Directorate, started the news conference off by saying "we can't answer it now, hopefully in the near future, but is there life elsewhere?" This gas could possibly act as a source of chemical energy for life forms.

"This finding does not mean that life exists there, but it makes life more plausible and potentially quite abundant if a fraction of the hydrogen is used to drive biology".

This finding led to the conclusion that microbes on the moon can get energy through a process known as methanogenesis - which is carried out by combining hydrogen with carbon dioxide present in water.

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He ticked off several of the ingredients necessary for life that have been found on Enceladus, including water and key elements such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen.

Cassini will end its mission in September and as NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports, it "doesn't have the instruments needed to look for life itself" on Enceladus.

A suspected plume of material erupted two years apart from the same location on Jupiter's icy moon Europa. To search for hydrogen specifically native to Enceladus, the spacecraft flew particularly close to the surface and operated INMS in a specific mode to minimize and quantify any spurious sources.

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.

The findings come thanks NASA's Cassini spacecraft and the Hubble Space Telescope. The plumes include 1 percent hydrogen and the remainder is a combination of molecules such as ammonia, carbon di oxide, and methane. That's fine, really, as Cassini was never meant to study the geysers and thus, doesn't have the necessary instruments to tell us much more.

In 2015, researchers said that there was evidence of a warm ocean under the moon's surface, as NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reported.

Older results have suggested that the hot water is intermingling with the rock underneath the sea. These reactions may develop an environment that supports life.

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