Conditions for life may exist on moon of Saturn

Cassini, NASA said, was never created to detect signs of life, but rather to simply record data of Saturn. They also informed about Jupiter's moon Europa erupting plumes.

The others? Carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur in an environment with liquid water and an energy source.

The findings were reported Thursday in the journal Science by a team from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

It's going to take years for scientists to definitively determine whether there is life on either moon.

The plumes have led scientists to infer that hydrothermal chemical reactions between the moon s rocky core and its ocean - located under the ice - are likely occurring on Enceladus.

"This is the closest we've come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment", said Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator for NASA's Science Missing Directorate.

The hydrogen and the methanogenesis could well provide a food source for microbes, experts think, in the same way it does on Earth.




The Cassini spacecraft detected the hydrogen in the plume of gas and icy material spraying from Enceladus during its last, and deepest, dive through the plume on October 28, 2015. The Hubble Space Telescope has observed what looks to be plumes emanating from Europa.

The observations - that Saturn's tiny moon Enceladus emits a hydrogen plume, and Jupiter's moon Europa shows a similar phenomenon - mean life may just exist in our solar system other than on Earth, said the NASA experts. The Cassini craft actually descended into the plume and sampled its makeup, finding chemical mix that included 98 percent water and 1 percent hydrogen, as well as traces of other gases like Carbon dioxide and methane.

"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".

One ingredient found that led to the groundbreaking theory is hydrogen gas, which is abundantly spewed from a plume. These observations show that almost 98 percent of the gas in the plume is water, about 1 percent is hydrogen and the rest is carbon dioxide, methane, and ammonia.

Life could exist on Saturn's moon Enceladus around hydrothermal vents similar to those found at the bottom of Earth's oceans, scientists believe. The Europa Clipper mission is set to launch to Europa in the 2020s.

"This is truly an exciting time for us to be able to probe those and really try to understand what's happening in these ocean worlds", said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division for NASA, during Thursday's conference.

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