Is there life on Enceladus?
That is the question NASA scientists are asking after an amazing discovery on Enceladus, a moon of the planet Saturn.
Ice plumes shooting into space from the ocean-bearing moon contain hydrogen from hydrothermal vents, an environment that some scientists believe led to the rise of life on Earth.
The discovery makes Enceladus the only place beyond Earth where scientists have found direct evidence of a possible energy source for life, according to the findings in the journal Science.
Want to learn more about today’s announcement of molecular hydrogen on Enceladus? Read the research: https://t.co/WjrELivRaV pic.twitter.com/InJnRq3uuk— Science Magazine (@sciencemagazine) 13 avril 2017
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is to thank for the revelation. In September, Cassini will end a 13-year mission exploring Saturn and its entourage of 62 known moons.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is preparing for its final — and fatal — dive towards Saturn: https://t.co/PIo2YcOrUW— News from Science (@NewsfromScience) 13 avril 2017
“We now know that Enceladus has almost all of the ingredients that you would need to support life as we know it on Earth,” said Cassini Mission Project Scientist Linda Spilker,
Her associate on the project, Chris Glein, said no evidence had yet been found of organisms on Enceladus.
But he added: “I am encouraged by the geochemical data which could allow for this possibility”.
Several moons orbiting Saturn and Jupiter are known to contain underground oceans, but Enceladus is the only one where scientists have found proof of an energy source for life.