Saturn's moon has chemical needed for life

The ocean beneath the icy crust of Enceladus may harbor life.
The ocean beneath the icy crust of Enceladus may harbor life.
Illustration: NASA.
A chemical energy source that can nourish life exists on Saturn's moon Enceladus, according to NASA scientists.

     During a press conference today, scientists spoke of their research focusing on two moons, Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon, Europa -- believed to harbor large oceans under an icy crust. The Cassini spacecraft veered close to the surface of Enceladus in 2015 to sample a plume shooting from the surface. During that dive, the spacecraft was able to sense or "sniff" hydrogen.
     "That hydrogen is coming from a hydrothermal vent on the seafloor of Enceladus, going out into space through the plume," explained Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "This is a very significant finding because the hydrogen could be a source of chemical energy for any microbes that might be in Enceladus' ocean."
     Enceladus, she says, has almost all of the ingredients needed to support life as we know it. But researchers clarified that they have not yet confirmed life on Enceladus. Additionally, if life is there, it could be microscopic. The research on Enceladus was published today in the journal Science.
      Another finding focuses on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. Europa is also thought to have an ocean. And during the press conference, scientists announced that they had again spotted a plume coming from the Jovian moon.
      The findings, made using the Hubble Space Telescope and published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, focus on a plume spotted on Europa in 2016 in the same location where the telescope spotted a plume in 2014.     
      “Europa is the size of our own moon,” said Jim Green, director of the planetary science division at NASA headquarters. “It’s an enormous body, and therefore there must be enormous energy to be able to loft these potential water jets high enough for us to be able to observe it five astronomical units away. It is really a remarkable set of observations.”


       Ocean detected inside Saturn moon

       Does a Saturn moon host life?

       Jupiter's moon may have balance for life

       Surface shifts on Europa similar to Earth

       Hubble sees evidence of vapor off Jovian moon

        Follow StudyHall.Rocks on Twitter

     If you would like to comment, give us a shout, or like us on Facebook and tell us what you think.