NASA: Ingredients For Life Found at Saturn's Moon Enceladus

Posted on April 13, 2017

Molecular hydrogen in plumes of gas and ice coming from Enceladus

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been analyzing the plume of moisture spraying from Saturn's moon Enceladus. NASA says that based on this analysis it can confirm that the ingredients for life exist on Enceladus. Enceladus is known to have a global ocean underneath its surface and it is there that life could exist.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft discovered molecular hydrogen in the plume of gas and icy particles using its INMS (Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer). This discovery means there exists a source of chemical energy that could be useful for microbes. The finding also provides additional evidence that warm, mineral-laden water is pouring into the ocean from vents in the seafloor. Hydrothermal vents (white smokers) have been found to support thriving communities of life in Earth's oceans despite being completely isolated from sunlight.

NASA says in a statement, "Enceladus now appears likely to have all three of the ingredients scientists think life needs: liquid water, a source of energy (like sunlight or chemical energy), and the right chemical ingredients (like carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen). Cassini is not able to detect life, and has found no evidence that Enceladus is inhabited. But if life is there, that means life is probably common throughout the cosmos; if life has not evolved there, it would suggest life is probably more complicated or unlikely than we have thought."

Take a look:



Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington, says in the announcement, "This is the closest we've come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment. These results demonstrate the interconnected nature of NASA's science missions that are getting us closer to answering whether we are indeed alone or not."

NASA also released the following graphic showing the connection between the plumes and the possible hydrothermal vents in the moon's subsurface ocean.

Possible hydrothermal vents on Enceladus


Image: NASA/YouTube
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